Death and destruction as massive earthquake hits Nepal
Kathmandu: Over 3,600 people were killed and thousands were injured when a massive earthquake - lasting about 20 frightening seconds - and several strong aftershocks caused widespread destruction in Nepal. India too was affected.
Nepalese rescue members and onlookers gather at the collapsed Darahara Tower in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015. Pic/AFP
What happened in Nepal
In Nepal, buildings were flattened, roads cracked, telephone connectivity snapped and hospitals grappled with a large number of injured who were extricated from the rubble after the country was hit by the temblor at 11.41 a.m. India time.
The quake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale. The epicentre was Nepal's Lamjung district, some 75 km northwest of capital Kathmandu. Over 50 aftershocks were also felt.
In Kathmandu alone, 181 people were killed, in Bhaktapur 144, and in Lalitpur district 88. Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur together form Nepal's capital.
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Rescue members remove the body from Darahara Tower in Kathmandu. Pic/AFP
He also said that the Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who had gone to Thailand on an official visit, is cutting short his sojourn and coming back immediately.
The Kathmandu airport was shut, triggering cancellation of flights from India to Kathmandu. An Indigo flight had to return to Delhi. Unconfirmed reports said avalanches on Mount Everest were triggered by the earthquake. Several mountaineers were unaccounted for, although the defence ministry in India said that a team of army climbers from India were safe, and have been asked to help in rescue operations.
Health workers carry injured people into an open area following an 7.9 earthquake, at Lalitpur on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Pic AFP
People Indian Home Secretary L.C. Goel told the media that 34 people were killed in India. There were 23 dead in Bihar, three were killed in West Bengal while eight people died in Uttar Pradesh.
The tremors were felt across India, right from Srinagar to Kochi, and Jaipur to Guwahati. At least two Indians have died in Nepal.
"I can confirm only two Indian deaths now -- one in the embassy and one in a hospital," Ambassador Rae said.
Asked about other Indian casualties, he said it was difficult to give exact figures as the phone lines were down and it was tough to contact the proper authorities.
He said the embassy was in touch with some Indians stranded in Muktinath and Jomsom, adding that embassy officials have been dispatched to hotels and hospitals.
The ambassador said that around 250 Indians were being evacuated on Saturday night.
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Kathmandu, which is a much sought after tourist destination, bore the brunt of the devastation. People watched in disbelief as a number of its old buildings, including the Dharahara - a nine-storey 19th-century tower - collapsed. There was also damage to the walls surrounding Nepal's royal palace.
The revered Pashupatinath temple did not appear to have suffered any major damage.
Ten mountaineers were killed at the Mount Everest Base Camp when the temblor triggered an avalanche, an official at the Nepal tourism ministry said.
The earth heaved and panic-stricken people rushed out of their homes and offices. IANS correspondent Anil Giri, who is based in Kathmandu, spoke of the horror.
He said over 1,000 buildings in Kathmandu have been destroyed, including historical structures. Thousands of people were out in the open. Electricity has been cut-off and wi-fi services are down. Hospitals are packed with the injured and the army is out in full force to help rescue people.
Kathmandu is a warren of tightly packed houses and narrow streets and these were filled with wailing people who panicked further as aftershocks rocked the area.
Indian bystanders look at a collapsed house following an earthquake, in Siliguri on April 25, 2015. Pic/AFP
A young woman, who clutched a blood soaked handkerchief to her forehead, cried and said that she was worried about her family. She said that she did not get the time to safely escape from her home which came crashing down. "I was terrified," she said at a hospital here.
A former Nepal minister said there had been "massive damage" at the epicentre Lamjung.
A damaged road after the powerful earthquake
Sadbhavana Party chief Rajendra Mahto told IANS that it was difficult to estimate the loss so soon after the disaster but Kathmandu and its neighbourhood had suffered a lot of damage.
"We will need support from neighbours, especially India, and international agencies...," said Mahto, who was a member of the first Constituent Assembly and a minister in several administrations.
Rescuers look for victims under a building that collapsed
The Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu was indefinitely shut on Saturday, resulting in the cancellation of all the eight subsequent return flights from India bound for the capital city.
The airport, according to aviation officials in Delhi, was opened in the evening, but only for non-commercial and relief operations. Some airlines like SpiceJet said they had been asked by Indian authorities to keep an aircraft ready to lift supplies from here and bring back stranded passengers.
Nepalese walk past a collapsed building. Pics/afp
Soon after the quake struck, an IndiGo flight for Nepal, which had left at 11:30 a.m. from New Delhi, had to be recalled and the departures of two others were suspended, official here said. The flight of Nepalese carrier Buddha Air, bound for Varanasi, was among the eight flights that were called off.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promptly directed dispatch of relief and rescue teams, including medical help to Nepal, as well as to the affected areas in India.
He chaired a high-level meeting to review the situation.
Modi spoke to Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who was abroad, and assured all assistance. He also spoke to the chief ministers of affected states in India like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh.
A meeting of the Nepal cabinet was held in the evening. It termed the earthquake a national crisis and sought international help.
India has sent two plane loads of relief material and rescue personnel to Nepal. The planes carried 45 rescue personnel and some sniffer dogs to help in rescue operations.
An air force spokesperson said that the Kathmandu airport runway was intact and aircraft could land there. All civilian flights have been cancelled.
Images showed that the quake had left the people of Nepal stunned. Besides capital Kathmandu and Besisahar in Lamjung, the cities which were affected include Bharatpur, Pokhara and Kirtipur.
Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae told IANS that "the old towns in the Kathmandu Valley have been affected in the earthquake".
Witnesses said this appeared to be "the most massive earthquake to hit central Nepal since 1934". In that quake, which was of 8.0 magnitude and centred near Mount Everest, more than 10,000 people were reported killed. Kathmandu was all but destroyed.
In India, reports from across north India said people feared for their lives. Some of them began to pray and tried to get as far away as possible from buildings. Most ran to open grounds. Many of the high-rises saw people rush out in large numbers.
"Suddenly people started saying their heads were reeling, fans were shaking. Tables and chairs were shaking. As realisation dawned that it was an earthquake, people made a dash for the exit," said K. Chakraborty, an employee of a nationalised bank in Kolkata.
The earthquake in densely populated Kathmandu Valley has caused extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings. With the increasing spate of earthquakes so far, here is a peak at the natural disaster which has rocked in 2015 till now.
Indian embassy in Kathmandu: +977 9851107021, 9851135141
Police emergency number: 4228435/4226853
Metropolitan police range: +977 4261945/ (Kathmandu) +977 4261790
Metropolitan police range (Lalitpur): +977 5521207
Metropolitan police range (Bhaktapur): +977 6614821
Paropkar Ambulance service: +977 4260859
Lalitpur Red Cross ambulance service: +977 5545666
Bishal Bazaar Ambulance service: +977 4244121
Red Cross ambulance service: +977 4228094
Indian MEA 24-hr helpline numbers
+91 11 2301 2113
+91 11 2301 4104
+91 11 2301 7905