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7.9 Earthquake Devastates Nepal – Hundreds Dead

A 7.9-magnitude earthquake has struck Nepal and India killing at least 108 and with many more missing.  The most severe damage was seen in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu where it destroyed homes, leveled temples hundreds of years old, and split roadways in two.

*Update: The death toll in the earthquake has reached 688, with 181 people killed in the Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, according to an official from Nepalese Home Ministry.

A special personal finder for the victims of Nepal earthquake has been launched by Google. In the URL you can find any person by typing his/her name or location. The finder has two sections: “I’m looking for someone” and “I have information about someone.”

According to USA Today:

Dozens of people with injuries were being brought to the main hospital in central Kathmandu. There was no immediate estimate on fatalities, except for a report by China’s state broadcaster that said one Chinese tourist was killed at the Nepal-China border.

The earthquake also shook several cities across northern India, and was felt as far away as Lahore in Pakistan and Lhasa in Tibet, 550 kilometers (340 miles) east of Kathmandu. Aftershocks continued to ripple through the region for hours.

Pushpa Das, a laborer, ran from the house when the first quake struck but could not escape a collapsing wall that injured his arm.

“It was very scary. The earth was moving … I am waiting for treatment but the (hospital) staff is overwhelmed,” he said, gingerly holding his right arm with his left hand. As he spoke dozens of more people showed up with injuries, mostly from falling bricks.

The quake’s epicenter was 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, and it had a depth of only 11 kilometers (7 miles), which is considered shallow in geological terms. The shallower the quake the more destructive power it carries.

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As the ground began to shake, several buildings collapsed in the center of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples and towers, said resident Prachanda Sual.

Among them was the Dharahara Tower, one of Kathmandu’s landmarks built by Nepal’s royal rulers in the 1800s and a UNESCO-recognized historical monument. It was reduced to rubble and there were reports of people trapped underneath.

Old Kathmandu city is a warren of tightly packed, narrow lanes with poorly constructed homes piled on top of each other.

Sual said he saw people running through the streets in panic. Ambulance sirens blared and government helicopters hovered overhead.

National radio warned people to stay outdoors and maintain calm because more aftershocks were feared. A 6.6-magnitude aftershock hit about an hour after the initial quake. But smaller aftershocks continued to arrive every few minutes and residents reported of the ground feeling unstable.

While the extent of the damage and the scale of the disaster are yet to be ascertained, the quake will likely put a huge strain on the resources of this poor country best known for Everest, the highest mountain in the world. The economy of Nepal, a nation of 27.8 million people, is heavily dependent on tourism, principally trekking and Himalayan mountain climbing.

Robin Trygg, a climber, was in a basecamp on the Cho Oyu mountain at an altitude of 5,600 meters (18,480 feet) when he felt the quake.

“We were sitting in the tent and drinking tea when all of a sudden the earth began shaking. We didn’t understand what happened,” he told the Swedish news agency TT by telephone.

In Kathmandu, dozens of people were gathered in the parking lot of Norvic International Hospital, where thin mattresses were spread on the ground for patients rushed outside, some wearing hospital pajamas. A woman with a bandage on her head sat in a set of chairs pulled from the hospital waiting room.

Doctors and nurses had hooked up some patients to IV drops in the parking lot, or were giving people oxygen.

Nepal’s Information Minister Minendra Rijal told India’s NDTV station that there are reports of damage in and around Kathmandu but no immediate word on casualties. He said rescue teams were on the scene.

The Kathmandu Valley is densely populated with nearly 2.5 million people, and the quality of buildings is often poor.

An Associated Press reporter in Kathmandu said a wall in his compound collapsed and there was damage to nearby buildings.

A Swedish woman, Jenny Adhikari, who lives in Nepal, told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that she was riding a bus in the town of Melamchi when the earth began to move.

“A huge stone crashed only about 20 meters (yards) from the bus,” she was quoted as saying. “All the houses around me have tumbled down. I think there are lot of people who have died,” she told the newspaper by telephone. Melamchi is about 45 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Kathmandu.

Liz Satow, the national director for global relief organization World Vision, said “it’s too early to make any assessment but the damage isn’t as bad as it could have been.”

She said she drove out from Kathmandu to nearby Lalitpur town, and found that while there was considerable damage most buildings were still intact.

The U.S. Geological Survey revised the magnitude from 7.5 to 7.9 and said the quake hit at 11:56 a.m. local time (0611 GMT) at Lamjung. It was the largest shallow quake since the 8.2 temblor off the coast of Chile on April 1, 2014.

An earthquake’s power increases by 10 times with each increase in the number of its scale. A magnitude 7 quake is capable of widespread and heavy damage while an 8 magnitude quake can cause tremendous damage.

Mohammad Shahab, a resident from Lahore, Pakistan, said he was sitting in his office when the earthquake rocked the city near the border with India.
The sustained quake also was felt in India’s capital of New Delhi. AP reporters in Indian cities of Lucknow in the north and Patna in the east also reported strong tremors.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a meeting of top government officials to review the damage and disaster preparedness in parts of India that felt strong tremors. The Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Sikkim, which share a border with Nepal, have reported building damage. There have also been reports of damage in the northeastern state of Assam.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered “all possible help” that Nepal may need.

Nepal suffered its worst recorded earthquake in 1934, which measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.

 

Royce Christyn
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