A 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, reportedly killing more than 150 people and leaving hundreds trapped under rubble. Early reports also indicated that climbers may be stuck on Mount Everest and other peaks in the Himalayas.
The temblor was centered 81 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of the capital Kathmandu, was 15 kilometers deep and hit at 11:41 a.m. local time. More than 150 people died in the earthquake, CNN reported, citing government officials.
Many people were trapped under the 19th century Dharahara Tower, a nine-storey structure in Kathmandu that collapsed in the quake, India’s CNN-IBN channel reported. Authorities closed Kathmandu’s international airport and diverted flights.
People living in Kathmandu fled their homes when the initial temblor hit, and remained out in the open as powerful aftershocks continued to rock the city. Aside from the main temblor, USGS reported at least 13 aftershocks in Nepal. It was the country’s most powerful earthquake since 1934.
“All over Kathmandu, the old structures have collapsed. The old temples, houses and all have been destroyed,” Sanket Lamichhane, a businessman, said by phone from Kathmandu, adding that there have been deaths. “Everybody is out on the road now, nobody is inside the houses.”
A senior guide said that an avalanche swept near the Everest base camp, the Associated Press reported. Many climbers travel to Nepal to scale the world’s highest peaks.
Buildings shook from Delhi to the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that his office is trying to reach Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and that he’d spoken to the country’s President Ram Baran Yadav. Modi called an urgent meeting to coordinate relief.
Eight people died in India, which borders Nepal and also suffered damage in the earthquake, according to Major General Anurag Gupta, joint secretary for operations and communications at the National Disaster Management Authority.
“It was so powerful and the entire house was shaking, so we got out,” said Sila Gurung, 28, who lives in a three-storey home with her mother in Kathmandu’s Nakhipot district, close to the popular tourist site Patan Durbar Square. “Everyone is very scared, and no one knows when it will be safe to go back home.”
Subways in Delhi and Kolkata were evacuated. No major damage was reported at India’s power stations.
South Asia earthquakes
The South Asia region has a history of catastrophic earthquakes because the tectonic plate that carries the Indian subcontinent is pushing northward into the main Asian plate. About 60 percent of the India’s land area faces a moderate to severe seismic hazard, according to its National Disaster Management Authority.
Iran and Pakistan in April 2013 were hit by a major earthquake measuring 7.8 that was centered on the region straddling their common border. The ground shook as far away as Dubai and New Delhi.
A 6.9-magnitude quake in September 2011 jolted India’s eastern Sikkim state, killing more than 80 people. The 2005 Kashmir quake killed more than 70,000 in Pakistan.
A major temblor in western Gujarat state in 2001 killed about 25,000 people and caused more than $4 billion dollars of damage. A 1934 earthquake centered in Nepal, just west of Sikkim, killed more than 16,000 people.