Kathmandu: Nepal was on Saturday struck by the worst earthquake in 80 years, leaving nearly 1,500 people dead in flattened houses and buildings including the iconic Dharhara tower and renowned Darbar Square in the heart of Kathmandu.
Another 34 were killed in India, six in Tibet and two in Bangladesh. Two Chinese citizens died at the Nepal-China border. Given the scale of the destruction, the death toll is almost certain to rise, said Home Ministry official Laxmi Dhakal.
The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.8 struck before noon and was most severely felt in the capital as well as the densely populated Kathmandu Valley. A magnitude-6.6 aftershock hit about an hour later, and smaller aftershocks continued to ripple through the region for hours.
Dozens of people with injuries were being brought to the main hospital in central Kathmandu.
The earthquake also shook several cities across northern India, and was felt as far away as Lahore in Pakistan, Lhasa in Tibet, and in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Following the quake, Kathmandu’s international airport was shut down.
A senior mountaineering guide, Ang Tshering, said an avalanche swept the face of Mt. Everest after the earthquake, and government officials said at least 30 people were injured.
The quake’s epicenter was 80 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu, and it had a depth of only 11 kilometers, which is considered shallow in geological terms. The shallower the quake the more destructive power it carries, and witnesses said the trembling and swaying of the earth went on for several minutes.
This U.S. Geological Survey map, shows the epicentre of the earthquake near Lamjung, Nepal.
As the quake began to intensify, residents ran out of homes and buildings in panic. Clouds of dust began to swirl around them. Large cracks opened up on streets and walls.
Several buildings collapsed in the center of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples and towers, said resident Prachanda Sual.
Among them was the nine-storey Dharahara Tower, one of Kathmandu’s landmarks built by Nepal’s royal rulers as a watchtower in the 1800s and a UNESCO-recognized historical monument. It was reduced to rubble and there were reports of people trapped underneath.
Video footage showed people digging through the rubble of the bricks form the collapsed tower, looking for survivors.
In Kathmandu, dozens of people were gathered in the parking lot of Norvic International Hospital, where thin mattresses were spread on the ground for patients rushed outside, some wearing hospital pajamas. A woman with a bandage on her head sat in a set of chairs pulled from the hospital waiting room.
Doctors and nurses hooked up some patients to IV drops in the parking lot, or were giving people oxygen.
The U.S. Geological Survey revised the magnitude from 7.5 to 7.9 but then lowered it to 7.8. It said the quake hit at 11-56 a.m. local time (0611 GMT) at Lamjung. It was the largest shallow quake since the 8.2 temblor off the coast of Chile on April 1, 2014.
A magnitude 7 quake is capable of widespread and heavy damage while an 8 magnitude quake can cause tremendous damage.
Nepal suffered its worst recorded earthquake in 1934, which measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.
The sustained quake also was felt in India’s capital of New Delhi and several other cities.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered “all possible help” that Nepal may need.
Modi talks to Nepal PM, assures all help
With massive earthquake hitting Nepal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to his counterpart Sushil Koirala as well as President Ram Baran Yadav and assured all help in dealing with the “tough” situation.
“Spoke to PM Sushil Koirala, who is in transit in Bangkok on his way to Kathmandu. Assured all support & assistance during this tough time,” Mr. Modi tweeted.
Mr. Modi, who is personally monitoring the situation at home as well as in Nepal, spoke to Mr. Yadav first as Mr. Koirala was abroad and not reachable. Later, Mr. Modi talked to Mr. Koirala and assured him of “all assistance to deal with the situation arising due to the earthquake”, the PMO said.
The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson tweeted that an IAF c-130 Superhercules with NDRF relief team on board is airborne for Kathmandu and that more relief efforts were under way.
The Ministry of Defence spokersperson tweeted that two C-17 Globemaster III of IAF are being loaded with medical supplies at Hindon and sent to Kathmandu.
24-hr control room in MEA, Nepal thanks India for assistance
In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal, a control room has been set up in Ministry of External Affairs to provide all help and information round the clock.
The numbers to the 24-hour Control Room are +91 11 2301 2113, +91 11 2301 4104 and +91 11 2301 7905, an official statement said.
Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh has expressed solidarity with Nepal, saying India stands by it in this hour of distress.
“Will be our endeavour to extend all support & assistance to those affected,” he tweeted.
Ambassador-designate of Nepal Deep Kumar Upadhyay said his country needs mobile medical assistant units from India, besides other help.
He thanked India for stepping in and offering help saying, “We have been in touch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Our President is in touch with them and they have offered to help us. I thank India on behalf of Nepal for assisting us“.
Tremors in north India
Tremors were felt across eastern and northern parts of India, said J.L. Gautam, Head (Operations), Seismology, at the Indian Meteorological Department.
The tremors, which were felt in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab, lasted for a minute, triggering panic and forcing people to rush out of their houses and offices.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has cut short his visit to New Delhi to respond to the situation.
There were no immediate reports of loss of life or damage to property in Delhi. Read more
Officials said Metro train services in Delhi were also affected due to the earthquake.
Landslides in Sikkim
The high-intensity also triggered landslides in various parts of Sikkim. A series of minor landslides have been reported from various places in the State, but there was no report of any loss of life so far. Read more
Tremors felt in Kolkata
One person was reported dead in north Bengal, while strong tremors were felt in Kolkata and its suburbs on Saturday as a high intensity earthquake measuring 7.9 on Richter Scale with its epicentre in Nepal, rocked many parts of north and east India. Read more
Tremors felt in Chennai
Tremors were felt in some parts of Chennai city and the neighbouring union territory of Puducherry. In Chennai, tremors were felt in Kodambakkam and Guindy areas. “I felt slight tremors around noon,” S.Bhuvaneswari, a private sector employee in Guindly locality, told IANS. According to reports, some residents in Puducherry also felt the tremors.
Mild tremor in Gujarat
Tremors were also felt in many parts of Gujarat following a powerful earthquake, with epicentre in Nepal, that shook large parts of east and north India.
However, no loss to property or human life was reported in the state so far.