Kathmandu: The death toll in Nepal from the devastating earthquake mounted to 2,500 today as rescue efforts intensified, with international teams including from India sifting through tonnes of rubble in search of survivors in the Himalayan nation's worst temblor in over 80 years.
In India, the powerful quake, which shook various parts of the country has left 53 people dead and 240 injured even as operations have been stepped up to rescue those feared trapped under the rubble.
Fresh aftershocks jolted Nepal and adjoining areas, as the country declared a state of emergency in the wake of the disaster caused by a powerful 7.9-magnitude earthquake and over a dozen aftershocks that hit the country yesterday.
The earthquake and the aftershocks left behind a trail of death and destruction, flattening houses and buildings, including the iconic Dharhara tower and the landmark Darbar Square in the heart of the capital, trapping scores of people. Thousands of people spent last night in the open in chilly weather, anticipating more aftershocks. The death toll touched 1,911 while the number of injured reached 4,627 till this morning, according to the Home Ministry.
Around 1,000 people are reported killed in the Kathmandu Valley alone. Officials fear the death toll could rise as desperate search for survivors continued. Dozens of bodies have been taken to hospitals here, many of which are struggling to cope with the number of injured. As many as 17 Mount Everest climbers, including foreigners, were reportedly killed in an avalanche triggered by the earthquake, the worst in over 80 years of Nepal's recorded history.
However, the Home Ministry put the death toll due to the avalanche at 10.
According to reports, the route to the base camp has been destroyed and the Indian Air Force choppers were trying to rescue the survivors, around 100 in number who were said to be safe.
Two Indians, including the daughter of an Indian embassy employee, were among those killed in the powerful earthquake, an Indian embassy official said.
Four fresh aftershocks jolted Nepal today, measuring up to 6 on the Richter scale, including one that was reported to hit 41 km west-northwest of Kirtipur.
However, there was no immediate report of casualty following today's tremors.
According to Nepal Meteorological Department, more aftershocks are expected. Thunderstorms were supposed to make rescue operations difficult.
Many areas in the country have no electricity for the past 24 hours and authorities say the situation is likely to continue for the next few days.
A house in the Indian Embassy complex collapsed, killing the daughter of a CPWD employee. Death of another Indian was reported at Bir Hospital here.
Nearly 550 Indians have been evacuated by the IAF from earthquake-hit Nepal even as India stepped up its relief and rescue mission with 10 flights and 12 helicopters scheduled to carry specialists and equipment to Kathmandu today. China too joined the humanitarian effort today, sending a 62-member search and rescue team to help Nepal.
The Tribhuvan International Airport, that was closed down yesterday following the quake, was expected to start operations to facilitate relief material reach the quake-hit areas besides help hundreds of passengers who were left stranded after their scheduled flights were cancelled. The earthquake hit around 11:56 am with epicentre at Lamjung, around 80 kilometres northwest of Kathmandu, had its impact in several cities of Bihar, West Bengal and UP, and tremors were felt across vast stretches of east and northeast India.
It was also felt in Southern and Western parts of India, China, Bhutan and as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Several buildings, most of them old, in the densely-populated Kathmandu Valley collapsed, killing hundreds. Over 200 bodies have been retrieved from the debris of two-century old nine-storey landmark Dharhara tower in the centre of the capital.
Kathmandu's Darbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was completely damaged in the quake which was the worst to hit Nepal and surrounding regions after the earthquake of 8.4 magnitude which occurred along the Nepal-Bihar border in 1934.