Sun, Apr 26, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Earthquake kills hundreds in Nepal

DEADLY TREMBLOR:The earthquake flattened many buildings in Kathmandu, while an avalanche hit the Everest Base Camp during busy spring-trekking season

Reuters, KATHMANDU

People sit with their belongings outside a damaged temple in Bashantapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

A powerful earthquake struck Nepal and sent tremors through northern India yesterday, killing hundreds of people, toppling a historic 19th-century tower in the capital, Kathmandu, and touching off a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest.

There were reports of devastation in outlying, isolated mountainous areas after the magnitude 7.9 quake struck, with its epicenter 80km east of Nepal’s second-largest city, Pokhara.

A collapse in communications hampered relief efforts, raising fears of a humanitarian disaster across the impoverished Himalayan nation of 28 million people.

A Nepali Ministry of Home Affairs official told reporters that the death toll had reached 758 in Nepal. A further 34 fatalities were reported in northern India and one in Bangladesh. The quake was shallow in depth, intensifying its destructive force.

A tourism official said at least eight people were killed when an avalanche unleashed by the earthquake swept through the Everest Base Camp for climbers of the world’s highest mountain.

About 300,000 foreign tourists were estimated to be in Nepal for the spring trekking and climbing season, and officials were overwhelmed by calls from concerned friends and relatives.

“We are facing a tremendous crisis here and it is hard to even assess what the death toll and the extent of damage could be,” tourism official Mohan Krishna Sapkota said. “The trekkers are scattered all around the base camp and some had even trekked further up. It is almost impossible to get in touch with anyone.”

The revered Dharara Tower collapsed in Kathmandu when the quake erupted shortly before noon. A policeman said that up to 200 people had been trapped in the structure.

Built in 1832 for the queen of Nepal, the tower was a 60m-high landmark that had been open to visitors for the past 10 years and had a viewing balcony.

A jagged stump just 10m high was all that was left of the lighthouse-like structure. Several bodies were extracted from the ruins.

At the main hospital in Kathmandu, people with broken limbs and arms were being rushed in for treatment.

Crowds and volunteers formed human chains to clear the way for ambulances to bring in the injured.

Kathmandu is home to ancient, wooden Hindu temples. Photographs posted online showed buildings reduced to rubble, with large cracks along roads and residents sitting in the street holding babies.

The Everest avalanches, first reported by climbers, raised fears for those on the world’s loftiest peak a year after a massive snowslide caused the deadliest incident yet there.

Romanian climber Alex Gavan said on Twitter that there had been a “huge avalanche” and “many, many” people were up on the mountain.

“Running for life from my tent,” Gavan said. “Everest base camp huge earthquake then huge avalanche.”

Another climber, Daniel Mazur, said Everest base camp had been “severely damaged” and his team was trapped.

“Please pray for everyone,” he said on his Twitter page.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake, initially measured at 7.7 but upgraded to magnitude 7.9, struck 80km east of Pokhara. It was only 2km deep.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired an emergency meeting and dispatched a military air transporter with 3 tonnes of supplies and a 40-member disaster response team to Nepal.

In Taipei, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that it has successfully contacted some of the Taiwanese groups and individuals traveling in the region, adding that as of 9pm, it had received no reports of Taiwanese injuries or fatalities.

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