KATHMANDU, Nov 4 (Reuters) – Rescuers began digging through the rubble of collapsed houses with their bare hands on Saturday as they searched for survivors from buildings as far away as New Delhi after Nepal’s worst earthquake in eight years killed 157 people. .
Nepal’s National Seismological Center said the 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Jajarkot in the western Himalayan nation at 11:47 pm (1802 GMT) on Friday. The German Research Center for Geosciences measured it at 5.7 and the US Geological Survey at 5.6.
Officials fear the death toll could rise as first responders reached the mountainous area near the epicenter, about 500 km (300 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, and began searching for survivors early Saturday.
“The number of injured may be in the hundreds and the death toll may rise,” Jajarkot district official Harish Chandra Sharma told Reuters by phone.
Although the magnitude of the quake was not severe, the damage and death toll was high due to the poor quality of construction in the area and the fact that it struck while people were sleeping, officials said.
Rescue operations are expected to be slow as emergency crews must first clear roads blocked by landslides in many places, they said, adding that helicopters and small planes have been asked to be ready to join the effort.
The quake was the deadliest since two earthquakes in 2015 killed nearly 9,000 people. Entire cities, centuries-old temples and other historic sites were subsequently razed to the ground, more than a million homes destroyed, and $6 billion in economic costs.
The death toll was 105 in Jajarkot in Karnali province and 52 in the neighboring western district, Rama Acharya, disaster department official at the Union Home Ministry (Home), told Reuters.
The earthquake was in Ramathanda village. The National Seismological Center reported that 175 earthquakes were reported in Jajarkot and 6 of them were magnitude 4 or more.
Three towns and three villages in Jajarkot, a population of 190,000, are known to be affected, with villages scattered in remote hills, officials said.
At least 85 people were injured in Ruk West and 55 in Jajarkot, a Prime Minister’s Office official said.
Appeal for help
“Many houses have collapsed and many more have developed cracks. Thousands of residents spent the night in the cold open as they were too scared to enter their cracked houses,” Sharma said.
“I couldn’t get in.”
Local television channels showed rescue workers digging through the rubble with their bare hands as they searched for survivors in the rubble of collapsed houses. The injured were shown being rescued and transported to hospitals by helicopter.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal flew a 16-member military medical team to the area early Saturday to oversee search, rescue and relief operations, his office said.
His office appealed to political parties, social workers and the public to provide funds to arrange food, water, clothes and tents for the survivors.
Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Ghazi Shrestha said that India and China have offered to help in search and rescue operations.
“We have told them that we are now carrying out preliminary search, rescue and relief operations. Then we will request any assistance if needed,” he told Reuters.
A small plane carrying medical supplies and health personnel was diverted to nearby Surket after it failed to land at Chowjahari in nearby Rukum district due to bad weather, army spokesman Krishna Bhandari said.
Local media footage showed the crumbling facades of multi-story brick houses, with large pieces of furniture strewn about. Videos at X showed people running into the streets as some buildings were evacuated.
The quake was felt in New Delhi, about 600 km (370 miles) away, and in other parts of northern India, where buildings shook and people were forced to run into the streets at night.
Officials said there were no reports of damage in the two northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which border Nepal.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed deep sorrow over the loss of life and damage in Nepal.
“India stands in solidarity with the people of Nepal and is ready to extend all possible assistance. Our thoughts are with the bereaved families and we wish the injured a speedy recovery,” he posted on X.
Report by Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu; Additional reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow, India; Written by YP Rajesh; Editing: William Mallard and Giles Elgood
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.