This story has been updated with the latest death toll as of 4.00pm local time.
Twenty four hours after Nepal was rattled by a massive earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, at least 2,100 people have died and over 5,000 have been injured as buildings collapsed and an avalanche swept through the base camp at the foot of Mount Everest.
And the death toll could rise significantly as search and rescue teams reach Nepal’s mountainous hinterland, where entire villages may have been devastated by the earthquake that hit around noon on April 25.
Meanwhile, strong aftershocks are continuing to hit the region. At 12.39pm on April 26, another earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale hit Nepal, and was felt across parts of northern India.
“We are extremely concerned about the fate of communities in towns and villages in rural areas closer to the epicenter,” Jagan Chapagain, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies director for Asia Pacific, said in a statement. “Access roads have been damaged or blocked by landslides and communications lines are down, preventing us from reaching local Red Cross branches to get accurate information. We anticipate that there will be considerable destruction and loss of life.”
Of Nepal’s 27 million people, only about 17% live in urban areas, with considerable numbers inhabiting remote Himalayan settlements. Thirty out of the country’s 75 districts have been affected by the earthquake.
“The information we received from the field is that 80% of the houses in these rural areas have been destroyed,” CARE International’s country director in Nepal, Lex Kassenberg, told CNN.
The affected districts include Sindulpalchowk, Kavrepalanchok, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Dolakha districts in the central region and Kaski, Gorkha, Lamjung in the western region, which have a combined population of 1.8 million, according to Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
With the communication situation gradually improving, posts on social media are calling out for help in far-flung villages in the countryside.
“…above my village there is tamang gau which has 300 to 400 houses which is completely destroyed and huge causauty has taken place,” a Facebook post by Junge Ghonde Gurung said. “Lots of people have died there and are severly injured there. People are dying due to lack of primary treatment.”
“The death toll is increasing by the hour,” Subhash Ghimire, a Nepalese editor, told the New York Times. “That does not include lot of remote villages. We may have wait days for the full report to come in. The casualties will be much, much higher in a day or so.”