At least 500 people were killed when a massive earthquake shook Nepal and India on Saturday, causing widespread devastation.
The earthquake measured a staggering 7.9 on the Richter scale, with its epicentre at Nepal’s Lamjung district some 75 km northwest of capital Kathmandu. There were six strong aftershocks. Over 500 people were killed in the devastation, according to media reports quoting Nepali police and officials. Six people died in India.
The Kathmandu airport was shut, triggering cancellation of flights from India to Kathmandu. An Indigo flight had to return to Delhi. Unconfirmed reports said avalanches on Mount Everest were triggered by the earthquake. Several mountaineers were unaccounted for, although the Indian Defence Ministry in India said that a team of army climbers from India were safe, and had been asked to help in rescue operations.
People scurried out of their homes and offices, with prayers on their lips, as the quake struck at 11.41 a.m. India time.
A number of old buidings, including the Dharahara – a nine-storeyed 19th-century tower – in Kathmandu, collapsed. There was also damage to the walls surrounding Nepal’s royal palace.
The tremor was devastating. Those trapped in the rubble cried out in pain and the rescuers worked feverishly to pull them out. Eyewitnesses said the casualty figure would be very high in Kathmandu itself as dozens of large buildings collapsed to mere rubble.
Images showed that the quake had left the people of Nepal stunned. There was panic in Nepal which bore the brunt of the massive temblor. Besides capital Kathmandu and Besisahar in Lamjung, the cities which were affected include Bharatpur, Pokhara and Kirtipur.
Police spokesman Kamal Singh Ban told the media that they have received information about the death of 10 people in the Pokhara area.
At least four people were killed and several were injured in capital Kathmandu.
One person was killed when an old building collapsed in the premises of the Indian consulate here. The victim was a Nepalese national, according to a journalist based in Kathmandu.
Xinhua news agency reported that at least three people were confirmed killed and two others were injured.
In India, five people, including two children, were killed in Bihar while one person died in West Bengal.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said they are "working to reach out to those affected, both at home & in Nepal".
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said disaster response agencies such as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were put on alert after an earthquake hit northern India.
He expressed grief over the situation in Nepal, adding "my heart goes out to the people of Nepal who have been hit by a massive earthquake. We stand by the people of Nepal in the difficult times".
Reports from across north India said people ran out of their homes and offices even as buildings shook due to the quake and the strong aftershocks.
The tremors were so strong that people feared for their lives. Some of them began to pray and tried to get as far away as possible from the buildings. Most ran to open grounds. Many of the high-rises saw people evacuate in large numbers.
"I suddenly found my chair shaking. I live on the fourth floor in an apartment. I just rushed out of my building…shouting and requesting people not to use the lift," said Ravindra Kumar, a resident at Sirsi road in Jaipur.