Nepal earthquake death toll climbs to nearly 1,900, massive rescue efforts on as aftershocks continue

  • Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: Apr 26, 2015 12:01 IST

Kathmandu and many places across Nepal woke up to another big jolt on Sunday morning even as the country ramped up rescue efforts a day after a massive 7.9-magnitude earthquake killed nearly 1,900 people, flattened buildings and triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest.

The Nepal government urged nations to send aid in the wake of the devastating quake that left 1,896 people dead and 4,718 injured. Capital Kathmandu suffered 723 casualties.

"The reports of the devastation are still coming in and the numbers of people killed, injured and affected by this earthquake continue to rise," UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said. "It is clear that very many lives have been lost. There has also been significant damage to Nepal's irreplaceable cultural heritage."

The quake devastated 29 of Nepal's 75 districts. It caused a large-scale damage to several old buildings and heritage properties in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. Over 100 were feared dead when the 203-foot Dharahara Tower collapsed in the capital in the worst temblor to hit the region in 81 years.

Rescuers clear the debris at Durbar Sqaure after the earthquake in Kathmandu. (AP Photo)

"Those killed include two foreigners, one Indian woman and a Chinese man. Two policemen have also lost their lives," said a duty officer at Nepal Police control room.

The Indian embassy in Kathmandu, however, put the number of Indian casualties at two. Further details are not available.

There are reports of several deaths in the Everest Base Camp region where an avalanche took place and damaged tents set up by hundreds of climbers from across the world.

"We have information that 10 people stationed at the base camp have been confirmed dead in an avalanche. Nearly 100 are feared trapped," said home ministry spokesperson Laxmi Prasad Dhakal.

Residents in the Kathmandu Valley and other major towns across Nepal spent the night in the open, under tents or on the streets, as several big aftershocks continued to jolt the country.

"We hardly slept through the night. It was cold and it rained briefly and it was uncomfortable, but I am glad I brought my family out to the open," said Ratna Singh, a vegetable vendor who was cuddled under a blanket with his wife and son.

Lok Bijaya Adhikari, chief of National Seismological Centre, said, "There have been over 60 aftershocks measuring over 4 on the Richter Scale till 5am on Sunday. There were four big aftershocks around the same time."

He said aftershocks will continue for another 2-3 days.

Video: Injured people treated outdoors as Kathmandu hospital accommodates rush of quake victims

As the overnight rescue operations were hampered by the aftershocks, blocked highways and a lack of equipment, people used their hands in many places to dig for survivors.

Officials say it will be difficult to reach all affected persons on time, considering the scale of the disaster, difficult topography and logistical problems.

Teams from India reached Nepal on Saturday evening and were involved in rescue and relief efforts at Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, said Dhakal.

"Rescue efforts are underway in all affected districts and helicopters are being put into service where required. Eight relief camps have been set up in Kathmandu," he said.

According to the Indian embassy, 285 personnel from National Disaster Response Force reached Kathmandu in three Indian Air Force aircrafts on Saturday with relief material. They will assist Nepali authorities in rescue and relief work.

"We have been trying to mobilise rescue and relief teams in all affected areas. But it is proving very difficult as such a disaster is almost unprecedented and unexpected," said an official at National Emergency Operation Centre.

Nepal was rocked by a quake measuring 8.2 on the Richter Scale in 1934, which had claimed between 10,000 and 12,000 lives.

Though seismologists and experts had predicted a major quake in the region for some years, there was no proper plan put in place to cope with such a calamity.

The quake occurred at the boundary between the two pieces, or plates, of Earth's crust, one of which supports India to the south and the other Eurasia to the north. The Indian plate is moving at 45 millimeters (1.7 inches) a year under the Eurasian plate, and this results in earthquakes once every 500 year on an average, said Marin Clark, a geophysicist at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

So the quake was "definitely not a surprise," she said. Over millions of years, such quakes have led to the uplift of the Himalayas.

Helpline numbers:

Nepal government: +97714200258, +97714200105, +97714200203

Indian Embassy in Kathmandu: +977 9851107021, +977 9851135141

24-hour control rooms: +91 11 2301 2113, +91 11 2301 4104, +91 11 2301 7905

(With agency inputs)

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