Devastating Nepal quake kills over 1,500, some in Everest avalanche

Agencies | | Updated on: Dec 06, 2021
People sit with their belongings outside a damaged temple in Bashantapur Durbar Square after a major earthquake hit Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. A shallow earthquake measuring 7.9 magnitude struck west of the ancient Nepali capital of Kathmandu on Saturday, killing more than 100 people, injuring hundreds and leaving a pall over the valley, doctors and witnesses said. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

People sit with their belongings outside a damaged temple in Bashantapur Durbar Square after a major earthquake hit Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. A shallow earthquake measuring 7.9 magnitude struck west of the ancient Nepali capital of Kathmandu on Saturday, killing more than 100 people, injuring hundreds and leaving a pall over the valley, doctors and witnesses said. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

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nepalquake

Kathmandu: A damaged road after a powerful earthquake in Kathmandu on Saturday. PTI Photo (PTI4_25_2015_000061B)

Kathmandu: A damaged road after a powerful earthquake in Kathmandu on Saturday. PTI Photo (PTI4_25_2015_000061B)

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Quake_2385494g

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NEW DELHI, 25/04/2015: People came out of office buildings following an earthquake, in New Delhi on Saturday.  Photo: V. Sudershan

NEW DELHI, 25/04/2015: People came out of office buildings following an earthquake, in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: V. Sudershan

Nepal was on Saturday struck by the worst earthquake in 80 years, leaving nearly 1,500 people dead in flattened houses and buildings including the iconic Dharhara tower and renowned Darbar Square in the heart of the capital.

The quake measuring 7.9 on Richter scale, which was followed by 16 aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or greater, striking heavy casualties in Kathmandu and injuring thousand others. The tremors lasted up to two minutes. Hundreds were feared missing across the country.

“Army estimates death toll as much as 1,457 so far,” Nepal’s Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat tweeted.

He said, “90 per cent of approx 1,000 homes and huts reduced to rubble in Barpak Larpak area.”

According to Nepalese Home Ministry figures, 150 people lost lives in neighbouring Bhaktapur, 250 in Sindhu, 67 in Lalitpur and 37 in Dhading district. Besides, 20 people were killed in the country’s eastern region, 33 in western region and rest in other parts of the Himalayan nation.

There were reports of devastation in outlying, isolated mountainous areas after the midday quake of magnitude 7.9, Nepal's worst in 81 years , centred 50 miles (80 km) east of the second city, Pokhara.

A collapse in communications hampered relief efforts, raising fears of a humanitarian disaster across the impoverished Himalayan nation of 28 million people.

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.

India helplines

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 +977 98511 07021, +977 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.

Pall over Kathmandu valley

"Hundreds of people are feared dead and there are reports of widespread damage to property. The devastation is not confined to some areas of Nepal. Almost the entire country has been hit," said Krishna Prasad Dhakal, deputy chief of mission at Nepal's Embassy in New Delhi.

A tourism official said eight people were killed by an avalanche unleashed by the earthquake that swept through the Everest Base Camp for climbers of the world's highest mountain.

"The toll could go up, it may include foreigners as well as sherpas," Gyanendra Shrestha said.

A collapse in communications was hampering efforts to launch relief efforts across Nepal's rugged terrain.

"We are totally cut off from most parts of our country," said Ram Narayan Pandey of the Nepal Disaster Management Authority, who was coordinating relief efforts from Kathmandu.

A 1934 quake of magnitude 8.3 in Nepal killed over 8,500 people.

The death toll in northern India rose to at least 12, with six killed in house collapses in Uttar Pradesh and six more dying in Bihar further east, according to government officials. One person died in Bangladesh.

Tower toppled

Among the Kathmandu landmarks destroyed by the quake was the 60-metre-high (100-foot) Dharahara Tower, built in 1832 for the queen of Nepal, with a viewing balcony that had been open to visitors for the last 10 years.

A jagged stump just 10 metres high was all that was left of the lighthouse-like structure. As bodies were extracted from the ruins, a policeman said up to 200 people had been trapped inside.

At the main hospital in Kathmandu, volunteers formed human chains to clear the way for ambulances to bring in the injured.

Across the city, rescuers scrabbled through the rubble of destroyed buildings, among them ancient, wooden Hindu temples.

"I can see three bodies of monks trapped in the debris of a collapsed building near a monastery," said Pant, the tourist. "We are trying to pull the bodies out and look for anyone who is trapped."

With aftershocks continuing throughout the afternoon, many residents chose to stay out in the streets.

Tourist trail

A second tourism official, Mohan Krishna Sapkota, said it was "hard to even assess what the death toll and the extent of damage" around Everest could be.

"The trekkers are scattered all around the base camp and some had even trekked further up. It is almost impossible to get in touch with anyone."

Around 300,000 foreign tourists were estimated to be in various parts of Nepal for the spring trekking and climbing season in the Himalayas, and officials were overwhelmed by calls from concerned friends and relatives.

Nepal, sandwiched between India and China, has had its share of natural disasters. Its worst earthquake in 1934 killed more than 8,500 people.

Political instability does little to boost Nepal's resilience; it has still not upgraded its weather forecasting system despite being surprised by unseasonal blizzards last autumn that killed 32 in the Annapurna massif.

In 2001, Nepal burst into global headlines when the crown prince, Dipendra, gunned down 10 members of his family, including his father, King Birendra Shah, before killing himself.

A Maoist rebellion subsequently transformed the kingdom into a republican democracy and abolished the monarchy altogether in 2008. A new constitution has yet to be agreed, however.

Everest Avalanche

The Everest avalanches, first reported by climbers, raised fears for those on the world's loftiest peak a year after a massive snowslide killed 16 Nepali guides just above base camp.

Romanian climber Alex Gavan tweeted that there had been a "huge avalanche" and "many, many" people were up on the mountain. "Running for life from my tent," Gavan said. "Everest base camp huge earthquake then huge avalanche."

Another climber, Daniel Mazur, said the base camp had been severely damaged and his team were trapped.

"Please pray for everyone," he tweeted

Far and wide

The tremors were felt as far away as New Delhi and other cities in northern India, with reports that they had lasted up to a minute.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dispatched a military air transporter with three tonnes of supplies and a 40-strong disaster response team to Nepal. Three more planes were to follow, carrying a mobile hospital and further relief teams.

Published on April 25, 2015
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