Rescue workers in Nepal are continuing to dig through the wreckage of collapsed houses with their bare hands, looking for survivors after the country’s deadliest earthquake in eight years killed 157 people and rattled buildings as far away as New Delhi.
The 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the Jajarkot region in western Nepal at 11.47pm (2.02am Singapore time) on Friday, according to Nepal’s National Seismological Centre. The German Research Centre for Geosciences determined it to be 5.7, whereas the US Geological Survey determined it to be 5.6.
Officials believe the death toll may grow because first responders just arrived in the steep area around the epicentre, about 500 kilometres (300 miles) west of Kathmandu, early Saturday and began searching for survivors.
“The number of injured could be in the hundreds, and the number of deaths could also be in the hundreds,” Jajarkot district officer Harish Chandra Sharma told Reuters by phone.
Although the magnitude of the quake was not strong, officials claimed the damage and death toll are high due to the poor quality of construction in the area and the fact that it occurred when people were sleeping.
Rescue efforts are expected to be slow since emergency crews must first clear roads that have been blocked by landslides in several places, they added, adding that helicopters and small planes have been ordered to be ready to assist.
The quake is the deadliest since a pair of earthquakes killed over 9,000 people in 2015. The destruction of entire cities, centuries-old temples, and other historic sites, as well as more than a million residences, cost the economy $6 billion.
According to Rama Acharya, an official in the disaster department of the federal home (interior) ministry, the death toll comprised 105 persons murdered in Jajarkot and 52 in nearby Rukum West district, both in Karnali province.
Ramidanda village served as the epicentre. The National Seismological Centre reported 175 aftershocks in Jajarkot, with six of them at magnitude four or higher.
Authorities said three towns and three villages in Jajarkot Nepal, which has a population of 190,000 and communities scattered across inaccessible hills, had been hit.
According to a prime minister’s office official, at least 85 persons were injured in Rukum West and 55 in Jajarkot.
“Many houses have collapsed, and many more have cracks.” “Thousands of residents spent the entire night in cold, open grounds because they were too terrified to enter the cracked houses as aftershocks struck,” Sharma said.
“I have myself not been able to go in.”
Rescuers were seen crawling through the rubble with their bare hands, hunting for survivors among the debris of collapsed houses. Injured patients were shown being transported to a rescue aircraft so that they could be flown to hospitals.
According to his office, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal rushed to the area early Saturday with a 16-member army medical team to oversee search, rescue, and relief efforts.
His administration asked political parties, social workers, and the general public to send money to help with the survivors’ food, water, clothing, and shelter.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, India and China have pledged assistance in search and rescue operations.
“We have informed them that we are currently conducting preliminary search, rescue, and relief operations.” We will contact you later if we require your assistance,” he told Reuters.
According to army spokesman Krishna Bhandari, a small plane carrying medical supplies and health professionals was diverted to adjacent Surkhet after it failed to land in Chaurjahari in nearby Rukum district due to inclement weather.
Local television images showed the crumbling façade of multi-story brick residences, as well as massive pieces of furniture scattered about. As some buildings were evacuated, videos on X showed people dashing into the street.
The earthquakes were felt in New Delhi, which is around 600 kilometres (370 miles) distant, as well as other regions of north India, shaking buildings and driving residents to run into the street late at night.
Authorities in the northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which border Nepal, said there had been no reports of damage.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed heartfelt sadness for the deaths and devastation in Nepal.
“India expresses its solidarity with the people of Nepal and stands ready to provide all assistance.” “Our hearts go out to the bereaved families, and we wish the injured a speedy recovery,” he wrote on X.