Space & Innovation

Aftershocks Cause More Terror in Quake-Hit Nepal

Terrified residents were jolted by a 6.7-magnitude aftershock that compounded one of the worst disasters to hit the impoverished Himalayan nation.

Powerful aftershocks rocked Nepal on Sunday, panicking survivors of a quake that killed more than 2,300 and triggering fresh avalanches at Everest base camp, as rescuers dug through rubble in the devastated capital Kathmandu.

Terrified residents, many forced to camp out in the capital after Saturday's quake reduced buildings to rubble, were jolted by a 6.7-magnitude aftershock that compounded the worst disaster to hit the impoverished Himalayan nation in more than 80 years.

At overstretched hospitals, where medics were also treating patients in hastily erected tents, staff were forced to flee from buildings for fear of further collapses.

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"Electricity has been cut off, communication systems are congested and hospitals are crowded and are running out of room for storing dead bodies," Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke said.

Climbers reported that the aftershock caused more avalanches at Mount Everest, just after helicopters airlifted to safety those injured when a wall of snow hit base camp on Saturday, killing at least 18 people.

The deadliest disaster in Everest's history comes almost exactly a year after an avalanche killed 16 sherpa guides, forcing the season to be cancelled, and as around 800 mountaineers were gathered at the start of the new season.

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AFP's Nepal bureau chief Ammu Kannampilly, who was on assignment at base camp, reported that six helicopters had managed to reach the mountain on Sunday after the weather improved.

A stunning image captured by the agency's South Asia photo chief Roberto Schmidt showed a massive cloud of snow and debris cascading onto base camp, burying scores of climbers and flattening tents.

"People being stretchered out as choppers land -- half a dozen this morning," Kannampilly said in a text message. "Weather clear, some snowfall."

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- Aid pours in - Offers of help poured in from around the world, with the United States and European Union announcing they were sending in disaster response teams.

India flew out its stranded citizens in military planes while a 62-strong Chinese rescue team arrived with sniffer dogs.

Home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said the number known to have died in Nepal had risen to 2,263 while 5,838 people had been injured.

Officials in India said the toll there now stood at 60, while Chinese state media said 17 people had been killed in the Tibet region.

"We have deployed all our resources for search and rescues," Bam told AFP. "Helicopters have been sent to remote areas. We are sifting through the rubble where buildings have collapsed to see if we can find anyone."

The fresh aftershocks forced Kathmandu airport to close for around an hour as air traffic controllers had to evacuate the tower. Several flights had to be diverted in mid-air.

The country's cellphone network was working only sporadically, while large parts of the capital were without electricity.

- Devastation in Kathmandu - AFP correspondents in Kathmandu reported that tremors were felt throughout the night, including one strong aftershock at dawn before the 6.7-magnitude follow-up quake that struck in the afternoon.

The historic nine-storey Dharahara tower, a major tourist attraction, was among the buildings brought down in Kathmandu Saturday, with at least a dozen bodies recovered from the ruins of the 19th-century structure.

As rescuers sifted through the huge mounds of rubble in the capital, hospitals were overwhelmed with victims who suffered multiple fractures and trauma while morgues were also overflowing with bodies.

"We have treated many people since yesterday, the majority children," said Samir Acharya, a doctor at Nepal's Annapurna Neurological Hospital.

"Most patients have head injuries or fractures. Two of our patients died, two are critical."

At the city's oldest Bir Hospital, an AFP correspondent saw grieving relatives trying to swat away flies from around a dozen bodies that had placed on the floor of the morgue after storage space ran out.

Acharya said medics were working out of a tent set up in a parking lot to cope with the number of injured, while some patients were too scared to stay in the building.

- 'Just flattened me' - Experienced mountaineers said panic erupted on Saturday at base camp, which has been "severely damaged", while one described the avalanche as "huge".

"We have airlifted 52 from the base camp so far, 35 have been brought to Kathmandu," said Tulsi Gautam of Nepal's tourism department which issues permits to climb the world's highest mountain.

"Those who are able are walking down. Others are being airlifted."

George Foulsham, a Singapore-based marine biologist, described the moment disaster struck.

"I was outside, saw a white 50-storey building of white come at me. I ran and it just flattened me," he told AFP.

"I tried to get up and it flattened me again. I couldn't breathe, I thought I was dead. When I finally stood up, I couldn't believe it passed me over and I was almost untouched.

"I saved for years to climb Everest. It feels like the mountain is saying it's not meant to be climbed for now."

Nepal and the rest of the Himalayas are particularly prone to earthquakes because of the collision of the Indian and Eurasia plates.

An 6.8 magnitude quake hit eastern Nepal in August 1988 killing 721 people, and a magnitude 8.1 quake killed 10,700 people in Nepal and India in 1934.

Pedestrians walk past collapsed buildings in Kathmandu, Nepal, April 25, 2015. Several hundred people died during a massive earthquake in the region.

A massive earthquake killed more than 3,700 people Saturday as it tore through large parts of Nepal, toppling office blocks and towers in Kathmandu and triggering a deadly avalanche at Everest base camp. Photo: Members of the China International Search and Rescue Team arrive at Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on April 26.

Officials said the quake was the Himalayan nation's worst disaster in more than 80 years. But the final toll from the 7.8 magnitude quake could be much higher, and dozens more people were reported killed in neighboring India and China. Above, a temple lies in ruins at the Durbar Square in Patan, Nepal.

Tibetan kids eat breakfast supplied by rescue teams in Jilung County of Xigaze City, southwest of Tibet on Sunday.

Photo: Indian bystanders int he city of Siliguri look at a collapsed house following the Nepal earthquake.

Emergency workers fanned out across the Himalayan nation to rescue those trapped under collapsed homes, buildings and other debris. Offers of help poured in from governments around the world, with the United States and the European Union announcing they were sending in disaster response teams. "Deaths have been reported from all regions except the far west. All our security personnel have been deployed to rescue and assist those in need," Bam told AFP. The Red Cross (IFRC) said it was concerned about the fate of rural villages close to the epicenter of the quake northwest of the capital Kathmandu. Photo: Rescuers recover injured from rubble in Nepal's devastated capital city, Kathmandu.

"Roads have been damaged or blocked by landslides and communication lines are down preventing us from reaching local Red Cross branches to get accurate information," said IFRC Asia/Pacific director Jagan Chapagain in a statement. Officials said 10 people were killed when an avalanche buried parts of Mount Everest's base camp in Nepal where hundreds of mountaineers have gathered at the start of the annual climbing season. "We don't have the details yet, but 10 have been reported dead so far, including foreign climbers," Gyanendra Kumar Shrestha, an official in Nepal's tourism department, told AFP. "We are trying to assess how many are injured. There might be over 1,000 people there right now, including foreign climbers and Nepalese supporting staff." Photo: Many neighboring countries felt the earthquake's impact, including India.

AFP Nepal bureau chief Ammu Kannampilly, on an assignment to Everest together with a colleague, was among those caught up in the chaos. "We are both ok... snowing here so no choppers coming," she said in an SMS on an approach to base camp. "I hurt my hand - got it bandaged and told to keep it upright to stop the bleeding." Experienced mountaineers said panic erupted at base camp which had been "severely damaged", while one described the avalanche as "huge". Photo: People work to clear up earthquake damage in Siliguri, India.

"Huge disaster. Helped searched and rescued victims through huge debris area. Many dead. Much more badly injured. More to die if not heli asap," tweeted Romanian climber Alex Gavan from base camp. Kathmandu was severely damaged, and the historic nine-storey Dharahara tower, a major tourist attraction, was among buildings brought down. At least a dozen bodies were taken away from the ruins of the 19th-century tower, according to an AFP photographer who saw similar scenes of multiple casualties throughout the city. "It was difficult to breathe, but I slowly moved the debris. Someone then pulled me out. I don't know where my friends are," Dharmu Subedi, 36, who was standing outside the tower when it collapsed, said from a hospital bed. Photo: A road blocked by a landslide in Gyirong County of Xigaze Prefecture, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region in the wake of the massive Nepal quake.

At least 42 people were known to have died in India, including 30 in the eastern state of Bihar, while buildings in the capital New Delhi had to be evacuated. The United States Geological Survey said the shallow quake struck 77 kilometers (48 miles) northwest of Kathmandu at 0611 GMT, with walls crumbling and families racing outside their homes. The quake tore through the middle of highways in the capital and also caused damage to the country's only international airport which was briefly closed. Kari Cuelenaere, an official at the Dutch embassy, said the impact had swept the water out of a swimming pool at a Kathmandu hotel where Dutch national day was being celebrated. "It was horrible, all of a sudden all the water came up out of the pool and drenched everyone, the children started screaming," Cuelenaere told AFP. "Some parts of the city fell down, there was dust rising... There were many (rescue) helicopters." Photos: Pedestrians walk past collapsed buildings in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Aftershock tremors could be felt more than two hours after the initial quake. USGS initially measured the quake at 7.5 magnitude and later adjusted it to 7.8, with a depth of 15 kilometers. Nepal and the rest of the Himalayas are particularly prone to earthquakes because of the collision of the Indian and Eurasia plates. The thrust of the India plate beneath Eurasia generates a large amount of seismic activity, the USGS says on its website. Photo: Pedestrians walk past collapsed buildings in Kathmandu, Nepal.

A spokesman for Nepal's home ministry said the government had released around $500 million as emergency funds for rescue operations. India dispatched two military transport planes to help with the rescue and relief efforts and there were similar offers from around the region, including Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) said a disaster response was being flown to Nepal and that the Obama administration had authorized an initial $1 million "to address immediate needs." In Europe, Britain, Germany, Norway and Spain also pledged support and assistance. Photo: People gather around a collapsed building after an earthquake in Durbar square in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal.

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message of condolences to his Nepalese counterpart Ram Baran Yadav and offered to provide assistance. China's official Xinhua news agency said that 13 people, including an 83-year-old woman, were killed in the Tibet region. The area has a history of earthquakes, with a 6.8 magnitude quake that hit eastern Nepal in August 1988 killing 721 people. A magnitude 8.1 quake killed 10,700 people in Nepal and eastern India in 1934. Photo: A collapsed building is seen after an earthquake in Durbar square in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal.

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