Kathmandu: Nearly 700 people were killed after a powerful earthquake measuring 7.9 on Richter scale struck Nepal today flattening houses and buildings including the centuries-old Dharhara tower and triggering an avalanche on Mt Everest.
The earthquake with epicentre at Lamjung, around 80 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu, had its impact in several cities in Bihar, West Bengal and UP and tremors were felt across vast stretches of east and northeast India. It was also felt in China, Bhutan and as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh. The quake measured 7.9, the US Geological Survey said. At least 16 aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or greater were felt for a long time. The tremors lasted up to two minutes. Nepalese Home Ministry official Lakshmi Prasad Dhakal said 686 people perished in the quake that left several thousands injured.
Earlier, Nepalese government functionaries said the death toll was in the range of 500 to 600. A clearer picture on the fatalities will emerge after the rescue and relief operations. There was no information about any damage to the famous 5th century Pashupatinath temple here, Dhakal said. Several buildings, most of them old, in the densely-populated Kathmandu Valley collapsed killing over 100 people in the city alone.
Video footages showed a number of buildings having caved in or developing huge cracks. Many of the city roads have suffered big craters in the impact.
Kathmandu's Darbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was completely damaged in the quake. The nearly two-century old 9-storey landmark Dharhara tower in the centre of the capital collapsed and several people are feared trapped.
Army, police and emergency workers were pressed into service for rescue of those trapped and rushing injured survivors to hospitals. Many of the injured could be seen suffering bleeding injuries covered in dust from the debris. The earthquake first struck around 11:56 am (local time) followed by aftershocks, Nepal Police spokesperson Kamal Singh Bam said.
Indian Embassy spokesperson Abhay Kumar said some walls have collapsed in the impact of the major earthquake and the embassy has set up two helplines ꯉ 98511 07021, ꯉ 98511 35141.
Nepal's TV channels showed dozens of bodies lined up on ground after the earthquake. Television pictures also showed some of the people rescued from under the debris. Reports said that the quake caused an avalanche on Mount Everest, sending mountaineers running for cover. The avalanche buried part of Everest basecamp, killing 8 people, Nepalese officials said.