A powerful earthquake devastated the western region of Jajarkot in Nepal, claiming the lives of at least 128 individuals while leaving numerous others injured. The catastrophe, which occurred at 11:47 p.m. on Friday, resulted in collapsed houses and tremors felt as far away as New Delhi in neighboring India.
Nepal’s National Seismological Centre reported the quake as magnitude 6.4, while differing measurements were provided by other organizations. The German Research Centre for Geosciences gauged it at 5.7, later revising it from 6.2, while the U.S. Geological Survey estimated it at 5.6.
This earthquake stands as the deadliest since the 2015 disasters, which claimed approximately 9,000 lives in two seismic events in Nepal. The country witnessed widespread destruction, including the reduction of entire towns, ancient temples, and historic landmarks to rubble. The aftermath led to the destruction of over a million houses, resulting in an estimated economic loss of $6 billion.
Authorities are deeply concerned about the possibility of an increasing death toll as communication remains severed in the hilly area close to the epicenter, situated about 500 kilometers (300 miles) west of Kathmandu. The impact of the tremors was also felt in the capital. The affected district, Jajarkot, encompasses a population of 190,000 with villages scattered across remote hills.
Harish Chandra Sharma, an official in the Jajarkot district, highlighted the potential for the number of injured and deceased individuals to surge, as the region grapples with the aftermath. “The number of injured could be in the hundreds and the deaths could go up as well,” Sharma conveyed to Reuters in a phone conversation.
Police reports indicate that 92 people died in Jajarkot, and 36 died in the neighboring Rukum West district within Karnali province, where the epicenter was located in the village of Ramidanda.
Numerous houses collapsed, while many others developed cracks, consequently leading to thousands of residents spending the entire night in the open due to the fear of aftershocks. Sharma emphasized, “Many houses have collapsed, many others have developed cracks. Thousands of residents spent the entire night in cold, open grounds because the fear of aftershocks prevented them from entering the cracked houses. I have myself not been able to go in.”
Moreover, the affected areas are currently inaccessible due to landslides triggered by the earthquake, significantly hindering search and rescue operations, as per police officer Namaraj Bhattarai.
In immediate response to the crisis, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal promptly traveled to the area with a 16-member army medical team to oversee search, rescue, and relief efforts.
Expressing profound sorrow over the loss of life and property, Dahal took to social media to urgently urge immediate rescue and relief operations by security agencies.
Additionally, local media footage depicted the grim aftermath, showcasing the collapsed facades of multi-storied brick houses and scattered furniture. Video footage captured panicked residents fleeing into the streets as they evacuated buildings.
“Houses have collapsed. People rushed out of their homes. I am out in the crowd of terrified residents. We are trying to find details of the damage,” reported police official Santosh Rokka over the phone.