Powerful quake rocks Nepal, claims five lives

  • British mission wall collapse claims three

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KATHMANDU, SEP 18 – An earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale jolted Nepal on Sunday evening, at 6:25 pm. This is the strongest quake to hit the country in 78 years.

The epicentre was between Taplejung, eastern Nepal, and the Indian state of Sikkim, where 14 aftershocks of varying magnitudes were recorded in the wake, Chief of National Seismological Centre Som Nath Sapkota said. The tremor  lasted nearly a minute and it was felt in most parts of the country.

Five deaths were reported in Kathmandu and Sunsari districts, while the figure on the casualty list and physical damage across the country was not immediately ascertained. The Home Ministry stated that at least 60 people in the Capital were injured in stampedes while jumping off buildings.

Three people died in the Capital after the compound wall of the British Embassy at Lainchaur collapsed in the aftermath of the quake.

Sajan Shrestha, 38, his eight-year-old daughter Alisha from Gorkha fell victim to the wall collapse while they were passing along in a car. A motorcyclist identified as Bir Bahadur Majhi of Sindhuli also got trapped under the weight of the concrete wall. The trio died undergoing treatment at Manmohan Memorial Hospital, Sorhakhutte, in the Capital.

In Dharan of Sunsari district, Santosh Pariyar and five-year-old Bimal Pariyar died when the ceiling of their house caved in due to the earthquake.

Likewise, two inmates were injured in a stampede at Bhadragol jail in Dillibazaar, Kathmandu, following the tremors. The roof of jail is said to have cracked in the tremor.

In Manthali of Ramechhap district, 15 houses were damaged by the tremor. No human casualty was reported. In Taplejung, the district prison building was damaged. In Sankhuwasabha, the earthquake damaged 16 buildings, including the District Police Office, the local Rastriya Banijya Bank branch, the District Development Committee, Nepal Red Cross and an Armed Police Force base camp. A police office in Dhanusha was also damaged.

In the Capital, panic seized people trying to run to safety. Some injured themselves while trying to jump off through their windows. Police said some people were spotted jumping off the second floor of Bishal Bazar at New Road and at   Maharjgunj. Four sustained injuries after they fell from the height.

Phone lines got jammed right after the earthquake. People kept desperately trying to call their family members, causing network congestion. Hundreds gathered at Tundikhel ground and clearings close to their houses for safety. Many feared the tremor would strike again as aftershocks.

This is the strongest tremor recorded in Nepal when more than 8,000 people had lost their lives in the 1934 earthquake measuring 8.4 on the Richter scale. More than 200,000 houses were damaged and destroyed in that quake.

Another major earthquake of a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale had struck the country in 1988, causing the loss of 721 lives and damaging 65,000 houses.   In a report jointly published by the United Nations and the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery in 2004, Nepal was ranked as the 11th most earthquake-prone country in the world. In terms of human casualty risk, Kathmandu is billed as the most risk-prone area in the world.

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