A powerful earthquake which struck Nepal today has killed at least 876 people across four countries.
At least 862 people were confirmed dead in Nepal, according to the police. Another 20 were killed in India, six in Tibet and two in Bangladesh. Two Chinese citizens died at the Nepal-China border.
Given the scale of the destruction, the death toll is almost certain to rise, said home ministry official Laxmi Dhakal.
It was a few minutes before noon when the quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 7.8, began to rumble across the densely-populated Kathmandu Valley, rippling through the capital Kathmandu and spreading in all directions.
A magnitude-6.6 aftershock hit about an hour later and smaller aftershocks continued to jolt the region for hours.
Within hours, hospitals began to fill up with dozens of injured people. Many came to the main hospital in central Kathmandu.
Following the quake, Kathmandu’s international airport was shut down.
I took these photos an hour apart. Was wandering when quake demolished temples before my eyes. Heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/RYtIZI4725— Siobhan Heanue (@siobhanheanue) April 25, 2015
A senior mountaineering guide, Ang Tshering, said an avalanche swept the face of Mount Everest after the earthquake and government officials said at least 30 people were injured.
Shallow and powerful
The quake’s epicentre was 50 miles north-west of Kathmandu and it had a depth of only seven miles, which is considered shallow in geological terms.
The shallower the quake the more destructive power it carries, and witnesses said the trembling and swaying of the earth went on for several minutes..
Several buildings collapsed in the centre of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples and towers, said resident Prachanda Sual.
Among them was the nine-story 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.
Video footage showed people digging through the rubble of the bricks from the collapsed tower, looking for survivors.
A valley of 2.5 million
The Kathmandu Valley is densely populated with nearly 2.5 million people, and the quality of buildings is often poor.
The US Geological Survey revised the magnitude from 7.5 to 7.9 but then lowered it to 7.8.
It said the quake hit at 11.56am local time (6.11am GMT) at Lamjung.
A magnitude seven quake is capable of widespread and heavy damage while an eight magnitude quake can cause tremendous damage.
Residents reported seeing trails of destruction – collapsed walls, broken windows and fallen telephone poles – as they drove through the capital, along with streets filled with terrified people.
But scattered reports also indicated that most buildings in the capital did not collapse.
“It’s too early to make any assessment but the damage isn’t as bad as it could have been,” said Liz Satow, the Nepal director for the aid group World Vision. She said she drove from Kathmandu to the nearby town of Lalitpur and said that while there was considerable damage, most buildings were still intact.
Nepal suffered its worst recorded earthquake in 1934, which measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.
The sustained quake also was felt in India’s capital of New Delhi and several other Indian cities.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a meeting of top government officials to review the damage and disaster preparedness in parts of India that felt strong tremors. The Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Sikkim, which share a border with Nepal, have reported building damage. There have also been reports of damage in the northeastern state of Assam.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered “all possible help” that Nepal may need.