Nepalese policemen inspect the debris of one of Kathmandu’s landmark Bhimsen Tower after it was damaged in the April 25 earthquake, in Kathmandu, Apr. 26. (AP | PTI)
Nepal was struck by the worst earthquake in 80 years, Apr. 25, leaving over 4,000 people, including two Indians, dead, and over 7,000 injured, in flattened houses and buildings including the iconic Dharhara tower and renowned Darbar Square in the heart of the Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Relief teams sent from India put the situation as “very, very serious.” The tremors shook parts of India as well, causing damage far and wide. A PTI report by Shirish B. Pradhan and Prashant Rangnekar.
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Crisis loomed over quake-hit Nepal following shortage of food, water, electricity and medicines as fear drove tens of thousands of people out into the open and the death toll soared past 4,000 amidst fears that it could touch 5,000.
Rains and a powerful aftershock late night sent a fresh wave of panic, Apr. 27, after the Apr. 25 7.9-magnitude quake had flattened thousands of homes and buildings, leaving about 7,000 injured and scores missing.
More than 48 hours after the 7.9 magnitude quake shook the Himalayan nation, multi-nation rescue teams, including from India, carried out relief work. Armed with modern equipment, dumpers and earth removers and aided by sniffer dogs, disaster relief workers were trying to locate possible survivors against fading hopes.
The quake that flattened homes and buildings and the subsequent powerful aftershocks forced people out to live in the open under plastic tents, barely shielding them from cold and rains that have pounded the city.
Fuel and medicines were also in short supply. The picture was the same in suburbs of Kathmandu and in other rural areas.
Nepal’s top bureaucrat Leela Mani Paudel said the immediate and big challenge was relief. “We urge foreign countries to give us special relief materials and medical teams. We are really desperate for more foreign expertise to pull through this crisis,” he said.
“We are appealing for tents, dry goods, blankets, mattresses, and 80 different medicines that we desperately need now,” he told a press conference.
Hundreds of people are still trapped under tons of rubble in capital Kathmandu and some of the worst-affected remote mountainous areas amid concerns that toll could cross 5,000 mark, authorities said.
The death toll in Nepal from the earthquake has risen to around 4,010, officials said. 1,053 people are reported killed in the Kathmandu Valley alone and 875 in Sindhupalchowk.
With the devastating earthquake crippling Nepal’s infrastructure, the country has been pushed to the brink due to scarcity of essential items like drinking water, food and fuel, hitting people the most.
To make the matters worse, several parts of the capital are still without electricity since the 7.9-magnitude quake struck on April 25 that has impacted the communication system, including mobile phone services.
The worst-affected areas are interior regions, which are difficult to reach, especially after roads were severely damaged following the quake.
Several shops in the capital city – parts of which still wear a deserted look – have remained shut, causing hardships to people in terms of accessing basic food items like milk. Waiwai, precooked noodles, popular in Nepal and Bhutan, chips and biscuits have been the source of food to many.
Long serpentine queues could be seen outside petrol pumps across Kathmandu as the Himalayan nation depends on oil imports. “The police and military authorities have been manning the petrol pumps to avoid chaos,” said a taxi driver.
“There has been no supply of milk for the past three days. There is also no electricity in some parts. Elders can manage, but what about children and elderly people?” said Dekh Bahadur, who resides near the Tribhuvan International Airport.
“Good drinking water is also a major issue. Nepal police and army have been providing us with water, but even that is very little for so many people,” he added.
Earlier, the quake measuring 7.9 on Richter scale, which was followed by 16 aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or greater, striking heavy casualties in Kathmandu and injuring thousand others. Hundreds were feared missing across the country.
Nepal’s Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said 90% of approximately 1,000 homes and huts were reduced to rubble in Barpak Larpak area.
Two Indians, including the daughter of an Indian embassy employee, were among those killed in the powerful earthquake, an Indian embassy official said.
A house in the Indian Embassy complex collapsed, killing the daughter of a CPWD employee. Death of another Indian was reported at Bir Hospital.
Hundreds of stranded Indians were flown back home by an Indian Air Force aircrafts from the Nepalese capital.
The earthquake that struck around 11:56 am with the epicenter at Lamjung, around 80 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu, had its impact in several cities in Bihar, West Bengal and U.P. and tremors were felt across vast stretches of east and northeast India. It was also felt in Southern and Western parts of India, China, Bhutan and as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Miraculously, the famous 5th century Pashupatinath temple remained undamaged, while a number of old temples were razed. Several buildings, most of them old, in the densely- populated Kathmandu Valley collapsed, killing hundreds. Hundreds of bodies have been retrieved from the debris of two-century old nine-story landmark Dharhara tower in the center of the capital.
Kathmandu’s Darbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was completely damaged in the quake that was the worst to hit Nepal and surrounding regions after the earthquake of 8.4 magnitude which occurred along the Nepal-Bihar border in 1934.
Video footages showed a number of buildings having caved in or developing huge cracks. Many of the city roads have suffered wide craters in the impact, affecting movement of vehicles and rescue operations.
Army, police and emergency workers were pressed into service for rescue of those trapped and rushing injured survivors to hospitals. Many of the injured could be seen suffering bleeding injuries covered in dust from the debris.
The Indian embassy has set up two helplines +977 98511 07021, +977 98511 35141.
Fifty doctors have arrived from India to provide emergency services with more on the way. India dispatched as many as four aircrafts including a C-130 plane carrying three tons of relief supplies and a 40-member rescue team to Nepal as an immediate response. The relief team has since grown with more personnel, aircrafts and food and essential supplies arriving on a daily basis.
The quake caused avalanches on Mount Everest, sending mountaineers running for cover. Gyanendra Shrestha, an official at the Ministry of Tourism, said that people including foreign climbers have been killed in the avalanche triggered by the earthquake.
President Pranab Mukherjee assured his Nepalese counterpart Ram Baran Yadav of fullest cooperation and all possible assistance to Nepal from India, it said, adding “people of India are with the people of Nepal in the hour of crisis.” He also condoled the death of those killed in the quake.
While in India, a spokesman of Union Home Ministry said 32 people were killed in Bihar, 10 in Uttar Pradesh and 2 in West Bengal. The spokesman put the number of injured at 237.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself monitoring the situation and issuing directives, massive rescue and relief operations were initiated on a war footing.
“As per the latest information, 44 people have lost their lives in India and the toll may go up,” Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told PTI.
Rijiju said rescue and relief teams have been sent to Patna, Supaul, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Gopalganj in Bihar and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Rijiju said that additional personnel of National Disaster Response Force have been sent to quake-hit Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
He said paramilitary personnel were also put on alert so that they could be deployed at a short notice,” he said.
“We have fully mobilized our forces and deployed for the rescue of quake-hit people. The operation will continue throughout the night. From tomorrow onwards, we may concentrate on relief operations,” he said.
Rijiju said a total of 460 NDRF personnel have been dispatched to Nepal along with all rescue gears to help the local administration in rescue operations.