More than 1800 dead as magnitude-7.8 quake rocks Nepal – USA TODAY


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More than 1,800 dead as magnitude-7.8 quake rocks Nepal

A powerful earthquake — the country’s worst in 80 years — rocked mountainous Nepal on Saturday, killing more than 1,400 people and leveling buildings and centuries-old temples.

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The death toll is in the thousands following a magnitude-7.8 earthquake in Nepal. The quake also sparked an avalanche at Mount Everest. Rescue workers continue to search for missing and trapped people.
Wochit

A powerful earthquake — the country’s worst in 80 years — rocked mountainous Nepal on Saturday, killing more than 1,800 people and leveling buildings and centuries-old temples. Dozens if not hundreds remained trapped under mounds of rubble.

Hospitals in the capital of Katmandu were so crowded that many of the injured were treated outside in the open, according to local media. The magnitude-7.8 quake, which shook a wide swath of northern India, Bangladesh, Tibet and Pakistan, also triggered avalanches in the Himalayas, killing at least 10 people on Mount Everest.

Nepal police said at least 1,865 people were killed. Given the scale of the destruction, the death toll was expected to rise. An emergency Cabinet meeting designated 29 districts as crisis zones, the Home Affairs Ministry said.

Tens of thousands of people, fearful of aftershocks bringing down more buildings, gathered outside during the night.

“My entire neighborhood is still in shock,” said Chiranjibi Gurung in Katmandu. “My children who were inside the houses at the time of the earthquake are scared to go inside now even at this time of the night.”

Around 180 bodies were pulled from the ruins of the nine-story Dharhara Tower in the center of the capital, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reports. It said about 200 were feared trapped in the rubble of the tower in the city’s historic Basantapur Durbar Square.

“We had heard the earthquake stories from our ancestors and how I remember my grandparents telling me about the devastation of the 1934 earthquake and how it uprooted the Dharahara Tower then,” said Sabita Lal of Katmandu. “I saw the same thing happen today to the tower. It was a massive one.”

Another Katmandu resident, Deepen Bista, whose house was damaged, said the big jolt “was longer than we had experienced before, it lasted a little more than a minute.” The downtown area of the capital — with old houses and narrow lanes — was hardest hit, he said.

City hospitals were quickly overwhelmed. Dozens 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 had hooked up some patients to IV drips in the parking lot, or were giving people oxygen.

The quake struck before noon local time about 50 miles northwest of Katmandu in an area that the U.S. Geological Survey calls one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth. It is at the spot where the India plate collides with the Eurasia plate in a process that created the towering Himalayas.

The quake, which was felt as far away as Lahore in Pakistan, Lhasa in Tibet, and Dhaka, Bangladesh, was followed by about 15 aftershocks, including one registered at a magnitude of 6.6. At least 34 were killed in India, 12 in Tibet and two in Bangladesh. Two Chinese citizens died on the Nepal-China border.

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said on Twitter that the quake had destroyed about 90% of about 1,000 homes and huts in the Laprak and Barpak villages near the epicenter.

The humanitarian aid group Oxfam said it was sending a team of technical experts from Britain to provide clean water, sanitation and emergency food supplies. “Communication is currently very difficult,” said Cecilia Keizer, Oxfam country director in Nepal. “Telephone lines are down, and the electricity has been cut off, making charging mobile phones difficult. The water is also cut off.”

Keizer said the quake had destroyed many of Katmandu’s old houses and that at least one large apartment block had collapsed. “People are gathered in the thousands in open spaces and are scared, as there have been several aftershocks,” she said.

In Winchester, Va., Kriti Hada, a 20-year-old nursing student from Nepal who is attending Shenandoah University, said her sister in Nepal managed to get through by phone.

Although she, her mother and another sister were unhurt, they were frightened by the intensity and duration of the aftershocks, which are continuing, Hada told USA TODAY.

Hada said her relatives, like hundreds of others who survived the initial quake, were remaining outside until the seismic activity ceases. “We have very limited open spaces and they are surrounded by tall buildings that are also fragile,” Hada said.

Numerous countries around the world pledged immediate aid and supplies. The U.S. Mission in Nepal released an initial $1 million for immediate assistance. The embassy also said a U.S. search-and-rescue team is preparing to fly to Nepal. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development was sending a disaster assistance response team. India, Pakistan, China, France and Britain also said they would assist in the relief effort.

Within hours, an Indian Air Force C-130 landed at at Katmandu’s airport with 39 disaster relief workers and 3.5 metric tons of supplies, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

Several buildings collapsed in the center of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples and towers. Among them was the Dharahara Tower, one of Katmandu’s landmarks built by Nepal’s royal rulers in the 1800s and a UNESCO-recognized historical monument. It was reduced to rubble and there were reports of people trapped underneath. The Katmandu Valley is densely populated with nearly 2.5 million people, and the quality of buildings is often poor.

Dhany Osman, an editor with The Straits Times of Singapore said he was at Katmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport when the quake struck.

“As bits of the ceiling began to fall, passengers who were waiting for their flights began to panic and started running out of the terminal, with some tripping over each other,” he wrote. “Despite the nearest exit door being just 10 (yards) away, a group of Nepali men smashed open a glass panel and climbed out of it. I tried telling people around me to calm down but they kept shoving each other to get out.”

Although the extent of the damage and the scale of the disaster are yet to be ascertained, the quake will likely put a huge strain on the resources of this poor country best known for Everest, the highest mountain in the world. The economy of Nepal, a nation of 27.8 million people, is heavily dependent on tourism, principally trekking and Himalayan mountain-climbing.

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A Swedish woman, Jenny Adhikari, who lives in Nepal, told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that she was riding a bus in the town of Melamchi when the earth began to move.

“A huge stone crashed only about 20 (yards) from the bus,” she was quoted as saying. “All the houses around me have tumbled down. I think there are lot of people who have died,” she told the newspaper by telephone. Melamchi is about 30 miles northeast of Kathmandu.

Although located on a major plate boundary with a history of large- to great-sized earthquakes, large earthquakes in this area are rare in the documented historical era, the USGS reports. Over the past century, just four events of magnitude 6.0 or larger have occurred within about 150 miles of Saturday’s earthquake.

An earthquake’s power increases by 10 times with each increase in the number of its scale. This means Saturday’s earthquake — the same magnitude as the one that hit San Francisco in 1906 — was 22 times more powerful than the 7.0 quake that devastated Haiti in 2010.

Contributing: Naila Inayat in Lahore, Pakistan; Doyle Rice, McLean, Va.; Donna Leinwand Leger in Washington, D.C.; the Associated Press