A little before noon local time, a massive earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale hit 77km (48 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, sending strong tremors through the landlocked Himalayan nation and across northern India.
Reuters is reporting that more than 1,000 people have been killed.
A police official said the death toll in Nepal alone had reached 876, more than half of them in the Kathmandu Valley. A further 34 fatalities were reported in northern India and one in Bangladesh. The death toll could rise significantly, with many people feared to be trapped underneath collapsed buildings. On Mount Everest, where the earthquake triggered an avalanche that reportedly buried part of the base camp, as many as 18 fatalities have been reported.
The epicentre of the quake, which struck at 11.41 am local time, was 35 kilometers east of Lamjung, about halfway between the Nepalese capital and Pokhara, the country’s second largest-city. Together, both cities are home to over a million people.
Here is a screenshot of the epicenter via USGS:
At 12.15pm local time, a second quake hit close to the epicenter of the initial one, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, according to the US Geological Survey.
Having shut down immediately after the quake hit, Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan airport—the only international airport in the country—opened late in the afternoon, according to a local journalist and the chief of an Indian airline company. A fully operational airport will help Nepal ship in badly needed relief materials, since the road network may have been damaged by the earthquake.
The Indian government has begun sending relief to Nepal. At 4pm (India time), an Indian air force C-130 Superhercules aircraft was already on its way to Kathmandu with National Disaster Response Force teams. More Indian air force planes and relief teams are on stand by, according to India’s defence ministry spokesperson.
Google has launched a so-called person finder to help locate victims. The service, which Google built following the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, allows you to look for someone by name or to supply the name of someone you have information about. By organizing the information in a common format, the person finder aims to provide a single database that can track victims’ whereabouts.
Dharahara, an iconic 19th-century tower in Kathmandu, crumbled after the quake. The white, minaret-like tower, built in 1832, was a famous tourist attraction—and many people are feared trapped under the debris.
The Patan and Kathmandu Durbar Squares, two of the Kathmandu valley’s three royal squares that are UNESCO World Heritage sites, also look to have suffered extensive damage.
The quake has also triggered avalanches in the Mount Everest region, according to CNN.
Reuters further reported that the avalanche triggered by the quake has buried a section of the Everest base camp and eight people are feared dead, quoting a Nepal tourism official.
Totally cut off
Elsewhere, the extent of damage has yet to be ascertained, especially since large swathes of the mountainous country are isolated and may have been badly hit.
“We are totally cut off from most parts of our country,” Ram Narayan Pandey of the Nepal Disaster Management Authority told Reuters.
Only 17% of the country’s 2.5 million people live in urban areas, with the remainder spread across rural settlements in the Himalayan hills and the low-lying Terai region.