A FRESH earthquake killed dozens of people yesterday and spread more fear and misery in Nepal as it struggles to recover from a devastating quake nearly three weeks ago that left more than 8,000 dead.
The magnitude-7.3 quake, centred midway between Kathmandu and Mount Everest, struck hardest in the foothills of the Himalayas, triggering some landslides, and shaking the capital badly, sending thousands of terrified people into the streets.
Nepal’s parliament was in session when the quake hit, and frightened politicians ran for the exits as the building shook and the lights flickered out.
At least 37 people were killed and more than 1,100 were injured, according to the home ministry. But that toll was expected to rise as reports began reaching Kathmandu of people in isolated Himalayan towns and villages being buried under rubble, according to the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Tremors radiated across parts of Asia. In neighbouring India, at least 16 people were confirmed dead after rooftops or walls collapsed on to them, according to India’s home ministry. Chinese media reported a death in Tibet.
The earthquake that hit on 25 April killed more than 8,150 and flattened villages, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
At least three people were rescued yesterday in Kathmandu, while another nine were pulled to safety in the district of Dolkha, the government said.
Rescue helicopters were sent to mountain districts where landslides and collapsed buildings may have buried people, the government said. A home ministry official said the Sindhupalchowk and Dolkha districts were the worst hit.
Search parties fanned out to look for survivors in the wreckage of collapsed buildings in Sindhupalchowk district’s town of Chautara, which had become a hub for humanitarian aid after last month’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake, the country’s worst-recorded quake since 1934.
Impoverished Nepal appealed for billions of pounds in aid from foreign nations, as well as medical experts to treat the wounded and helicopters to ferry food and temporary shelters to hundreds of thousands left homeless amid unseasonal rains.
Yesterday’s earthquake was deeper, however, coming from a depth of 11.5 miles versus the earlier one at 9.3 miles. Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage. It was followed closely by at least ten strong aftershocks, according to the US Geological Survey.
Early reports indicated at least two buildings had collapsed in Kathmandu, though one had been unoccupied due to damage it sustained on 25 April. Experts said the earlier quake caused extensive structural damage even in buildings that did not topple, and warned that many could be in danger of collapse.
Frightened residents in the capital, who had returned to their homes only a few days ago, once again set up tents yesterday with plans to sleep in empty fields, car parks and on pavements.
“Everyone was saying the earthquakes are over... Now I don’t want to believe anyone,” said 40-year-old trader Ram Hari Sah as he searched for a spot to pitch a tarpaulin to shelter his family.
He added: “We are all scared, we are terrified. I would rather deal with mosquitoes and the rain than sleep in the house.”
Extra police were sent to patrol ad-hoc camping areas, while drinking water and extra tents were being provided, according to a Kathmandu official.