Dozens killed, hundreds injured as second major earthquake hits Nepal
At least 66 more killed with 1,066 injured as earthquake measuring 7.3 magnitude strikes near Everest prompting panic across Nepal
Reuters in Kathmandu and Stuart Lau
Military personnel remove debris in a search for survivors in Kathmandu. Photo: Reuters
A second powerful earthquake in less than three weeks spread panic in Nepal on Tuesday, bringing down buildings weakened by the first disaster and killing at least 66 people, including 17 in neighbouring India and one in Chinese Tibet.
Most of the reported fatalities were in villages and towns east of Kathmandu, only just beginning to pick up the pieces from the April 25 quake that left more than 8,000 dead.
The U.S. military’s Pacific Command said a Marine Corps helicopter involved in disaster relief had gone missing, with six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers aboard.
The new earthquake was centred 76 kilometres east of the capital in a hilly area close to the border with Tibet, according to coordinates provided by the US Geological Survey.
Villagers who watched their homes collapse said they only survived because they were already living in tents.
Aid workers reported serious damage to some villages in the worst affected Charikot area and said some people were still trapped under rubble. Witnesses said rocks and mud came crashing down remote hillsides lined with roads and small hamlets.
“We still don’t have a clear view of the scale of the problem,” said Dan Sermand, emergency coordinator at Medecins Sans Frontieres, which surveyed the area by air and saw multiple landslides.
The United Nations has only raised 13 per cent of the US$423 million it said was needed to help Nepal recover from the April tragedy, and relief workers warned that even more funding would now be needed.
In the town of Sangachowk, residents were outside receiving government food aid when the quake struck.
“It was really lucky. If we were inside, it would have been a lot worse,” said Purushottam Acharya, 38.
A family sat on the edge of road where their house had just fallen down the hill, rubble spread over hundreds of feet below.
“We watched it go down slowly, slowly,” said Ashok Parajuli, 30.
Rescue workers search for survivors amid the rubble in Kathmandu. Photo: EPA
In Charikot, where at least 20 bodies were recovered, hotel owner Top Thapa said the quake was at least as strong as last month.
“We saw houses falling, collapsing along the ridge,” said Thapa, owner of Charikot Panorama Resort. He said he saw five or six multi-storey buildings come down.
Politicians dashed for the exit of Nepal’s parliament building and office towers swayed as far away as New Delhi. The tremors that began at around 12.30pm could be felt in Bangladesh and were followed by a series of powerful aftershocks.
Parents clutched children tightly, and hundreds of people frantically tried to call relatives on mobile phones. Shopkeepers closed their stores and the streets were jammed with people rushing to check on families.
Elsewhere, people huddled in public spaces, too nervous to venture inside.
“I am very scared. I am with my two sons. The school building is cracked and bits of it, I can see they have collapsed,” said Rhita Doma Sherpa, a nurse with the Mountain Medicine Centre in Namche Bazaar, a departure point for trekkers headed to Everest.
“It was lunchtime. All the kids were outside. Thank god.”
May is peak season for climbing and trekking in Nepal’s high altitude valleys and peaks, but the usually bustling lodges and tea-houses were close to empty after thousands of tourists fled the April quake.
Dambar Parajuli, president of Expedition Operators’ Association of Nepal, said there were no climbers or Nepali sherpa guides at Everest Base Camp. Mountaineers seeking to scale the world’s tallest peak called off this year’s Everest season after 18 people died when last month’s quake triggered avalanches on the mountain.
“All of them have already left,” Parajuli said.
In Lukla, the departure point for treks to Everest, buildings cracked and small landslides were triggered when the ground shook. At least three school children were injured.
Susana Perez from Madrid was on a 10-day trek with her husband to Island Peak in the Everest region and was about to reach Lukla.
Rescue workers arrive at the scene where a building has collapsed in central Kathmandu. Photo: AFP
“We saw the mountain in front of us fall down – earth and rocks. There were some houses underneath but it was not clear if they were hit,” Perez said.
In Nepal the death toll reached 66, with 1,066 injured, police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam said. Five people were killed in Indian states bordering Nepal, according to officials, and Chinese media reported one person died in Tibet after rocks fell on a car.
Indian and US military aircraft flew more than 60 wounded people to Kathmandu from affected areas.
Nepal had barely begun to recover from the devastation caused by last month’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake, the country’s worst in more than 80 years, which killed at least 8,046 people and injured more than 17,800.
People gather in a temporary shelter after another earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Photo: AP
Hundreds of thousands of buildings, including ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples, were destroyed and many more damaged.
Some foreign rescue teams have returned home from Nepal, but may need to be pressed into service again.
At a welcoming ceremony for an Israeli military rescue delegation on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “I know that you are already prepared for the next mission, anywhere it might be required. And to judge by the news, it is possible that such a mission now faces us.”
Wojtek Wilk, CEO of the Polish Centre for International Aid, said the new quake presented a funding challenge. Last week, World Food Programme head Ertharin Cousin said that the scale and number of global humanitarian crises was straining donors.
A Hong Kong man later got in touch with his family, confirming he was in a safe place. It remains unclear how many Hong Kong residents are currently in Nepal.
The department added that it would get in touch with airlines, the Travel Industry Council, the Chinese embassy in Nepal and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ office in Hong Kong to check the latest situation.
Pink Lee Wai-ki, a Hong Kong volunteer aid worker in Nepal’s second largest city Pokhara, about 200km west of the capital Kathmandu, described today’s quake.
“I was in a restaurant, and I felt the first tremor as soon as it happened. Then it was quiet but I and other customers immediately ran to the garden.
“As soon as I was out in the garden, there was a huge tremor. I saw the tin roof of the next building shaking vigorously.
“I was ready to run out to the lakeside which is just next to the restaurant and more open with my friend. But then the quake stopped,” Lee told the Post via Facebook.
“Then soon after this, maybe like 15 or 20 minutes later, there was another tremor and I heard women screaming. I think it was out of fear rather than really getting hurt. And I ran to the garden again,” she said.
Another Hong Kong man living in Kathmandu, Chang Chuen-man, described the panic people felt in the capital.
“I just looked for a safe place and ran”, Chang said. “Then people crammed together, holding onto people they didn’t even know. All I saw was the dust going up and the noise as buildings fell down.”
How to help
Hong Kong Red Cross “Nepal Earthquake 2015” operation
HSBC : 500-334149-010/ Hang Seng bank account: 267-175123-009/ Bank of China bank account: 012-806-00034033
Oxfam’s Nepal Earthquake Emergency Response
HSBC: 001-6-331860/ Bank of China: 012-874-0-010515-7/ Hang Seng Bank: 284-401080-003
Unicef “Donation for Nepal Earthquake”
HSBC: 567-354014-005/ Bank of China: 012-875-0-021868-3/ Wing Lung Bank: 020-601-003-7634-8/ Bank of East Asia: 015-260-81-012100
World Vision “Nepal Earthquake Relief”
HSBC: 018-377077-003/ Hang Seng Bank: 286-364385-005/ Bank of China: 012-883-0-002136-6
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 3:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 May, 2015, 9:01am