Panic, tears and fears permeated cities, villages and camps around the country on Saturday, after a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck around midday.
Hours later, after a wave of relentless aftershocks, many people still were too scared to go back inside any buildings. Others crowded around rubble, including men and women racing to rescue those trapped. And then are the hundreds already confirmed dead, not to mention the hundreds more who suffered injuries.
The disaster flattened sections of the city’s historic centre, trapping sightseers in a 200-foot tower that crumbled into a pile of bricks.
A spokesman for Nepal’s Home Ministry, Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, said that the preliminary death toll stood at 876, nearly all in the valley around Katmandu, and that thousands of people had been injured. Trekkers reported a major avalanche on Mount Everest, where two people were reported dead, according to tourism officials. In addition, 34 deaths had been reported in India.
The earthquake struck just before noon, and residents of Katmandu ran into the streets and other open spaces as buildings fell, throwing up clouds of dust, and wide cracks opened on paved streets and the walls of city buildings. Overflowing hospitals were treating injured patients on the streets, and Nepal’s leading television station, its studios crushed, was broadcasting from the pavement outside.
By midafternoon the United States Geological Survey had counted 12 aftershocks, one of which measured at a magnitude of 6.6.
Kanak Mani Dixit, a Nepalese political commentator, said he had been having lunch with his parents when the quake struck. The rolling was so intense and long-lasting that he had trouble getting to his feet, he said.
He helped his father and an elderly neighbor to safety in the garden outside and then had to carry his
“And I had time to do all that while the quake was still going on,” Mr. Dixit said. “It was like being on a boat in heavy seas.”
The nine-story Dharahara Tower, which was built in 1832 as a watchtower on the orders of the queen, collapsed, Mr. Dixit said. Witnesses there said more than 200 people had bought tickets to climb up to a viewing platform on the eighth story, and that several dozen were likely to have been on the platform when the earthquake hit. “Scores probably died in this place,” Mr. Dixit said.
A citizen, Kashish Das Shrestha, who is in Kathmandu told CNN that “some of the historical sites are completely devastated.
“Most of the people — a lot of the people — are walking through the city. They’re confused and scared. A lot of people are crying.
“They’re out with their pets and their families and a lot of locals are volunteering in rescue operations.
“In several parts of Kathmandu, a lot of people seem trapped under the rubble. Locals are trying to rescue these people because they can still hear them.”
A journalist, Shiwani Neupane, said: “we are scared and waiting for the tremors to end. We are all sitting outside because there is more news of another quake.