KATHMANDU, 4th November, 2023 (WAM) — Rescue workers in Nepal began digging through the rubble of collapsed houses with their bare hands on Saturday, searching for survivors after the country’s worst earthquake in eight years killed 157 people and shook buildings as far away as New Delhi.
In a statement carried by Reuters, Nepal’s National Seismological Centre said the quake struck the Jajarkot region in the west of the Himalayan nation at 23:47 GMT on Friday with a 6.4 magnitude. The German Research Centre for Geosciences measured it at 5.7 and the U.S. Geological Survey at 5.6.
Officials fear the death toll could rise as first responders had reached the hilly area near the epicentre, some 500 km (300 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, only early on Saturday and began searching for survivors.
“The number of injured could be in the hundreds and the deaths could go up as well,” Jajarkot district official Harish Chandra Sharma told Reuters by phone.
Although the quake’s magnitude was not severe, the damage and the death toll are high due to the poor quality of construction in the area and because it struck while people slept, officials said.
The quake is the deadliest since 2015 when about 9,000 people were killed in two earthquakes. Whole towns, centuries-old temples and other historic sites were reduced to rubble then, with more than a million houses destroyed, at a cost to the economy of $6 billion.
The death toll included 105 people killed in Jajarkot and 52 in neighbouring Rukum West district, both in Karnali province, Rama Acharya, an official in the disaster department of the federal home (interior) ministry, told Reuters.
The epicentre was in the village of Ramidanda. The National Seismological Centre said 175 aftershocks were recorded in Jajarkot and six of them were of magnitude 4 or higher.
Three towns and three villages were known to be affected in Jajarkot, which has a population of 190,000 with villages scattered in remote hills, authorities said.
At least 85 people were injured in Rukum West and 55 in Jajarkot, an official in the prime minister’s office said.