Nepal quake: Rescuers dig with bare hands for survivors as toll crosses 1,900

QUAKE-NEPAL_2386282gNEW DELHI/KATHMANDU: At least 1,900 people were killed in the massive earthquake that hit Nepal and parts of North India on Saturday, the country’s Home Ministry said. The death toll could rise as relief and rescue mission intensifies.

There have been aftershocks in the morning. Local media said many are still trapped in the rubble.The number of injured is over 4,600. Hospitals in the capital and in other badly affected districts are unable to cope with flow of people seeking treatment.
In Kathmandu alone, the number of dead is over 700 and still counting. Those injured are over 2,000.Power has not been restored yet. The state-run power utility said they first want to repair the damaged electric poles and transformers.Planes with medicine and relief supplies have been making sorties.
The government has already declared emergency in affected areas. The number of affected districts is about 40.Rescuers dug with their bare hands and bodies piled up in Nepal on Sunday.
Army officer Santosh Nepal and a group of rescuers worked all night to open a passage into a collapsed building in the capital Kathmandu. They had to use pick axes because bulldozers could not get through the ancient city’s narrow streets.
“We believe there are still people trapped inside,” he told Reuters, pointing at concrete debris and twisted reinforcement rods where a three-storey residential building once stood.
In Everest’s worst disaster, the bodies of 17 climbers were recovered from the mountain on Sunday after being caught in avalanches, but hundreds, many injured, remain stranded on the mountain.
With the government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, India flew in medical supplies and relief crews, while China sent in a 60-strong emergency team.
Among the capital’s landmarks destroyed in the earthquake was the 60-metre (200-foot) Dharahara Tower, built in 1832 for the queen of Nepal, with a viewing balcony that had been open to visitors for the last 10 years.
A jagged stump was all that was left of the lighthouse-like structure. As bodies were pulled from the ruins on Saturday, a policeman said up to 200 people had been trapped inside.
Bodies were still arriving on Sunday morning at one hospital in Kathmandu, where police officer Sudan Shreshtha said his team had brought 166 bodies overnight.”I am tired and exhausted, but I have to work and have the strength,” Mr. Shreshtha told Reuters as an ambulance brought three more victims to the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital.
Bodies were heaped in a dark room; some covered with cloth, some not. A boy aged about seven lay, his face half missing and his stomach bloated like a football. The stench of death was overpowering.Outside, a 30-year-old woman who had been widowed wailed: “Oh Lord, oh God, why did you take him alone? Take me along with him also.”
Some buildings in Kathmandu toppled like houses of cards, others leaned at precarious angles, and partial collapses exposed living rooms to with furniture in place and belongings stacked on shelves.
Rescuers, some wearing face masks to keep out the dust from collapsed buildings, scrambled over mounds of splintered timber and broken bricks in the hope of finding survivors. Some used their bare hands to fill small white buckets with dirt and rock.
Thousands of people spent the night outside in freezing temperatures and patchy rain, too afraid to return to their damaged homes.
On Sunday, survivors wandered the streets clutching flimsy bed rolls and blankets, while others sat in the street cradling their children, surrounded by a few plastic bags of belongings.
The 7.9 magnitude quake struck at midday on Saturday at a busy time of year for the tourism-reliant country’s trekking and climbing season, with an estimated 300,000 foreign tourists in the country.
Nepal’s police put the death toll at 1,910, with 4,625 injured. At least 700 were killed in the capital, a city of about 1 million people where many homes are old, flimsy and packed close together.
The road west from Kathmandu to the valley of the same name was still open, with trucks and buses passing through police checkpoints. Many people spent the night in taxis or buses as tremors continued.
Foreign climbers and their Nepalese guides around Mount Everest were caught by the tremors and a huge avalanche that claimed the highest toll of any disaster on the world’s highest mountain.
Seventeen bodies were recovered on Mount Everest base camp and 61 were injured when part of the base camp was engulfed by the snowslide, Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told Reuters.
A first helicopter took off from Kathmandu on Sunday morning to airlift the injured after flights were delayed by cloudy weather, Mr. Sherpa said.
Two light helicopters shuttled the injured from base camp to a lower altitude, from where they could be evacuated back to the capital, emergency officials at Kathmandu airport said.
Hospitals across the nation of 28 million people struggled to cope with its worst quake in 81 years. They expected a fresh influx of patients on Sunday but medical supplies were running low.
People still trapped
The earthquake was all the more destructive for being shallow.Rescue operations had still not begun in towns in some remote areas. Across the capital, rescuers scrabbled through destroyed buildings, among them ancient, wooden Hindu temples.
“I can see three bodies of monks trapped in the debris of a collapsed building near a monastery,” Indian tourist Devyani Pant told Reuters. “We are trying to pull the bodies out and look for anyone who is trapped.”
Neighbouring India, where 44 people were reported killed in the quake and its aftershocks, sent military aircraft to Nepal with medical equipment and relief teams. It also said it had dispatched 285 members of its National Disaster Response Force.
In Tibet, the death toll climbed to 17, according to a tweet from China’s state news agency, Xinhua.
International aid groups readied staff to go to Nepal to help provide clean water, sanitation and emergency food, while the United States, Britain and Pakistan were among countries providing search-and-rescue experts.
More than 1,000 climbers were on Everest at the start of their season when disaster struck.The first injured were helicoptered out in the morning, Romanian climber Alex Gavan tweeted from base camp.”All badly injured heli evacuated,” Mr. Gavan said. “Caring for those needing. want sleep.”
Another 100 climbers higher up Everest at camps 1 and 2, were safe but their way back down the mountain was blocked by damage to the treacherous Khumbu icefalls, scene of an avalanche that killed 16 climbers in 2014.
In the Annapurna mountain range, where scores were killed in the nation’s worst trekking accident last year, many hikers were stranded after the quake, according to messages on social media, but no deaths there had been reported.
Nepal, sandwiched between India and China, has had its share of natural disasters. Its worst earthquake in 1934 killed more than 8,500 people.
Heritage sites destroyed
Among them was the nine-storey Dharahara Tower, one of Kathmandu’s landmarks built by Nepal’s royal rulers as a watchtower in the 1800s and a UNESCO-recognised historical monument. It was reduced to rubble and there were reports of people trapped underneath.
The Kathmandu Valley is listed as a World Heritage site and is a collection of seven locations around Nepal’s capital that reflect the country’s rich religious history. The Buddhist stupas, public squares and Hindu temples are some of the most well-known sites in Kathmandu, and now some of the most deeply mourned.
The head of the U.N. cultural agency, Irina Bokova, said in a statement that UNESCO was ready to help Nepal rebuild from “extensive damage, including to historic monuments and buildings of the Kathmandu Valley.”
Nepali journalist and author Shiwani Neupane tweeted: “The sadness is sinking in. We have lost our temples, our history, the places we grew up.”
What happened? and what happens next?
“This is a very large earthquake in a significantly populated region with infrastructure that has been damaged in past earthquakes,” U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle said. “Significant fatalities are expected.”
Mr. Earle said the quake happened on what is known as a “thrust fault.” That describes the situation when one piece of the Earth’s crust is moving beneath another piece.
In this case, it’s the Indian plate that is moving north at 45 mm (1.7 inches) a year under the Eurasian plate to the north, Earle said. It’s a different type of earthquake than the one that caused the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
“This is what builds the Himalayan mountain range,” Mr. Earle said.The region and particular fault has a history of damaging earthquakes, including four temblors with magnitudes greater than 6.0 in the past 100 years, Mr. Earle said, warning that landslides are a particular worry now, given the steep slopes in the region.
What does ‘red alert’ issued by U.S. means?
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was strong enough to merit a “red alert” for shaking-related fatalities and economic losses. It said that “high casualties and extensive damage are probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Past red alerts have required a national or international response.”
Quick USGS calculations estimate a two-thirds likelihood of between 1,000 and 100,000 fatalities and damage between $100 million and $10 billion. Scientists estimate that more than 105 million people felt at least moderate shaking during the quake.
What happened on Mount Everest?
A devastating avalanche swept across Mount Everest after the quake, claiming at least 10 lives with an unspecified number of people missing and injured.
The avalanche struck near one of the famed mountain’s most dangerous spots. It swept down between the Khumbu Icefall, known for its harsh conditions, and the base camp used by international climbing expeditions.
There were unverified reports of avalanches on other parts of the mountain. Nepalese officials said some 30 people were injured at the base camp.
Facebook postings by climbers suggested that some people may have been buried in their tents when the avalanche hit. Climbers and their support teams were leaving the base camp on Saturday looking for safer locations.
More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

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