Kathmandu, The Indonesia Post – Rescue teams in Nepal struggled to find survivors by digging through the rubble of houses with their bare hands on Saturday, after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the country on Friday and killed 137 people.
The biggest earthquake in the last eight years in the Himalayan mountainous country was felt as far away as New Delhi, India.
The disaster hit the Jajarkot region in western Nepal on Friday at 23.47 local time (Saturday, 01.02 WIB), said the National Seismological Center of Nepal. The US Geological Survey recorded the magnitude of the earthquake at 5.6.
Officials fear the death toll could rise as the first rescue teams were only able to reach a hilly area near the epicentre, about 500 kilometers west of the capital Kathmandu, on Saturday morning and began searching for victims.
“The number of injured could reach hundreds and the death toll could also rise,” Jajarkot district official Harish Chandra Sharma told Reuters by telephone.
Although the magnitude of the quake was not very large, the number of damages and deaths was likely high because the quality of buildings in the area was poor and the quake struck while people were sleeping, according to officials.
Rescue efforts are expected to be slow as teams must first clear roads buried by landslides in many places, they said.
A number of helicopters and small planes have been requested to prepare to assist with the rescue.
The natural disaster was the deadliest earthquake since 2015 when around 9,000 people died in two earthquakes. The entire city, including 1 million houses, ancient temples and other historical sites, was destroyed at that time, with losses reaching US $ 6 billion (around Rp. 93.5 trillion).
According to authorities, 99 people died in Jajarkot and another 38 people died in the neighboring district of West Rukum. Both districts are in Karnali Province. The epicenter of the earthquake was in Ramidanda village.
Three towns and three villages were reportedly affected in Jajarkot, which has a population of about 190,000 people, where many villages are located in remote hills, local authorities said.
At least 85 people were injured in West Rukum and 55 in Jajarkot, an official in the prime minister’s office said.
“Many houses collapsed, others cracked. Thousands of residents spent the night in the open because they did not dare to enter houses that were cracked due to the aftershocks,” said Sharma.
“I can’t get in myself.”
Local TV stations showed rescue teams digging through the rubble of collapsed houses with their bare hands to search for survivors. Injured people were seen being carried onto helicopters to be flown to hospitals.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal visited the area with a military medical team on Saturday morning to oversee search, rescue and relief efforts, according to his office.
Political parties and the general public have been asked to contribute funds to provide supplies of food, water, clothing and tents for victims.
A small plane carrying supplies and medical personnel was diverted to Surkhet after failing to land at Chaurjahari due to bad weather, military spokesman Krishna Bhandari said.
Local media footage showed collapsed multi-storey houses and large pieces of furniture strewn about. Videos on X’s social media showed people running into the street as a number of buildings were evacuated.
The vibrations from the earthquake in Nepal were felt in New Delhi, which is about 600 km away, and other areas in northern India. Buildings shook and people ran around in the middle of the night.
The governments of the northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which border Nepal, said there were no reports of damage there.
Indian PM Narendra Modi said he was deeply saddened by the deaths and damage caused by the earthquake in Nepal.
“India stands in solidarity with the people of Nepal and is ready to provide all possible assistance. Our thoughts are with the bereaved families and we wish the injured victims a speedy recovery,” he wrote in X. (mhn/bbs)