KATHMANDU – A powerful 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on Saturday, causing massive damage in the capital, Kathmandu, with strong tremors felt across neighboring countries.
The death toll had risen to over 870 as of Saturday night, according to police.
“The toll from the earthquake has jumped to 876, including 524 from the Kathmandu valley,” police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam said. “Rescue efforts are still underway. We fear that the toll might rise as we dig through the rubble.”
Television footage showed that large numbers of offices and homes had collapsed in Kathmandu and roads had been split in two by the force of the impact.
Panicked residents rushed into the streets as the tremor erupted around midday, with the impact felt hundreds of kilometers away in big swaths of northern India and even in Bangladesh.
Dozens of people with injuries were being brought to the main hospital in central Kathmandu.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 11:56 a.m. with an epicenter 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu and 68 km east of the tourist town of Pokhara, at a depth of 15 km.
Several buildings collapsed in the center of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples and towers, said resident Prachanda Sual. Among them was the Dharahara Tower, one of Kathmandu’s landmarks, built by Nepal’s royal rulers in the 1800s and a UNESCO-recognized historical monument. It was reduced to rubble, and there were reports of people trapped in the rubble.
Old Kathmandu city is a warren of tightly packed, narrow lanes with poorly constructed homes piled on top of each other.
National radio warned people to stay outdoors and maintain calm because more aftershocks were feared. A 6.6-magnitude aftershock hit about an hour after the initial quake.
“Our focus is on rescue in the core areas of Kathmandu, where the population is concentrated,” Dinesh Acharya, metropolitan police spokesman, said. “Many houses and buildings have collapsed.”
Reports said the quake tremors lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes and were felt across the across the border in India, including in New Delhi.
Laxman Singh Rathore, director-general of the Indian Meteorological Department, told reporters the impact had been felt across large areas of northern India.
The quake also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, climbers said, raising fears for those on the world’s highest peak a year after another avalanche caused the deadliest incident on the mountain.
Romanian climber Alex Gavan said on Twitter that there had been a “huge avalanche” and “many, many” people were up on the mountain. Another climber, Daniel Mazur, said Everest’s base camp had been “severely damaged” and his team was trapped.
The earthquake was also felt across large areas of Bangladesh, triggering panic in the capital, Dhaka. In the garment manufacturing hub of Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, at least 50 workers were injured after the quake set off stampede in a garment factory, according to private Jamuna television.
Nepal suffered its worst recorded earthquake in 1934, which measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.