Nepal earthquake worst in 80 years: Death toll crosses 1,865

Nepal earthquake worst in 80 years: Death toll crosses 1,865

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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.
The dead included 256 people in Kathmandu, the capital, alone, according to myrepublica.com, a Nepal news agency, quoting the Home Affairs Ministry.
An emergency cabinet meeting designated 29 districts as crisis zone, the ministry said.
Around 180 bodies were pulled from the ruins of the nine-story Dharhara tower in the center of the capital, China’s Xinhua news agency reports. It said around 200 were feared trapped in the rubble of the tower in the city’s historic Basantapur Durbar Square.
Hundreds of injured people crowded the city’s hospitals, forcing many of the wounded to be treated in the open outside the medical facilities, myrepublica.com reports.
The BBC, quoting Nepal police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam, put the death toll at 970, with 539 victims in the crowded Kathmandu Valley.
At least 20 people were also 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 struck before noon about 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu 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 has created the towering Himalayas.
Everest climbers jolted; at least 8 dead at base camp
The quake, which was felt as far away as Lahore in Pakistan, Lhasa in Tibet, and in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was followed by some 15 aftershocks, including one registered as magnitude 6.6.
Pushpa Das, a laborer, ran from the house when the first quake struck but could not escape a collapsing wall that injured his arm.
“It was very scary. The earth was moving … I am waiting for treatment but the (hospital) staff is overwhelmed,” he said, gingerly holding his right arm with his left hand. As he spoke dozens of more people showed up with injuries, mostly from falling bricks.
The initial death toll appeared certain to rise as authorities gathered information from hard to reach areas.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a meeting of top government officials to review the damage and disaster preparedness in parts of India that felt strong tremors. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered “all possible help” that Nepal may need.
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.
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.
Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said the avalanche apparently occurred between the Khumbu Icefall, a rugged area of collapsed ice and snow, and the base camp where most climbing expeditions have their main camps.
As the ground began to shake, 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 Dharahara Tower, one of Kathmandu’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 Kathmandu 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 Kathmandu’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.”
While 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.
Robin Trygg, a climber, was in a base camp on the Cho Oyu mountain at an altitude of 18,480 feet when he felt the quake.
“We were sitting in the tent and drinking tea when all of a sudden the earth began shaking. We didn’t understand what happened,” he told the Swedish news agency TT by telephone.
A Swedish woman, Jenny Adhikari, who lives in Nepal, told the Swedish newspaperAftonbladet 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 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.
One, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in August 1988 about 150 miles to the southeast of the latest quake, caused close to 1,500 fatalities, according to the USGS.
The largest magnitude-8.0 event known as the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake, occurred in a similar location to the 1988 event. It severely damaged Kathmandu, and is thought to have caused around 10,600 deaths.
An earthquake’s power increases by 10 times with each increase in the number of its scale. A magnitude-7.0 quake is capable of widespread and heavy damage while an magnitude-8.0 can cause tremendous damage.
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: Doyle Rice, McLean, Va.; Associated Press

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