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Nepal Rattled by Powerful New Earthquake East of Capital


by Ellen Barry via

NEW DELHI — A powerful earthquake shook Nepal on Tuesday, less than three weeks after a devastating temblor there killed more than 8,000 people. Dozens of deaths and more than a thousand injuries were reported.

Residents of Kathmandu, the capital, reported that buildings swayed in the earthquake, which was felt as far away as New Delhi. The United States Geological Survey assigned the quake a preliminary magnitude of 7.3, with an epicenter about 50 miles east of Kathmandu, near the border with China. The April 25 earthquake registered magnitude 7.8 and was centered west of Kathmandu.

“We’re obviously hearing of buildings destroyed, buildings collapsed, buildings falling, we’re hearing about casualties, but the numbers are not known yet,” said Jamie McGoldrick, Nepal resident coordinator for the United Nations. He said several international rescue teams, including American and Indian teams, were still in Kathmandu but had not yet been asked to deploy.

By late afternoon, Nepal’s National Emergency Operation Center had reported 42 deaths and 1,117 injuries.

Four people died in Chautara, a town in the Sindhupalchowk district east of Kathmandu where several buildings collapsed, said Paul Dillon, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration. “A search and rescue crew of some locals and international groups are digging through rubble as best they can,” Mr. Dillon said.

“I can still see massive clouds of mud and dust around, as massive landslides continue to happen,” Bharat Shrestha, who was participating in rescue operations in a town about seven miles west of Chautara, said by telephone. “Concrete houses in Chautara have crumbled, and the main road leading to Chautara is completely blocked with debris.”

Krishna Prasad Gaiwali, the chief district officer in Sindhupalchowk, reported “huge damage in our district.”

Since the April 25 quake, people across Nepal have feared another powerful one, in part because the first one left many buildings cracked and unstable. An American structural engineer who examined buildings in Bhaktapur, a city near Kathmandu, said that he believed one-third of the buildings he had seen would have to be demolished.

Nevertheless, many families have moved back into their apartments, after living under tents for the week after the first quake.

Jasmine Avgerakis, an emergency response manager for Mercy Corps who arrived in Chautara just hours before the quake struck Tuesday, said rescue workers were bringing injured people on stretchers to a tent hospital that the Red Cross had set up in an open field after the April quake.

Ranveig Tveitnes, the deputy team leader of the Norwegian Red Cross team in Chautara, said that 40 injured people had been brought to the hospital by midafternoon, and more were coming in the evening.

Ms. Avgerakis described locals, loaded up with blankets, streaming into the open field. “I don’t think anybody’s going to be sleeping in their homes tonight,” she said.

Ian Norton, foreign medical team coordinator for the World Health Organization, said people in many parts of Nepal had begun salvaging things from “very precarious houses” and could have been injured in Tuesday’s quake. There were reports of deaths in Bhaktapur, where a number of unstable houses had fallen.

“We are still very worried by the magnitude, and the precarious buildings,” Mr. Norton said. “We are in the injury management phase right now. We are now expecting that people in smaller houses in the districts will start to come forward with their injuries.”

Many teams of volunteers had been working in remote villages to deliver aid when the quake struck. Some said they remained cut off and frightened on Tuesday afternoon, unable to return to the main road.

Prakash Banjara, 22, said he and a group of 15 students had been delivering rice and other food to villages in Sindhupalchowk when “the earth started shaking so violently.”

“The mountains before my eyes started tumbling down in massive landslides,” Mr. Banjara said. “There are continuous landslides in this area.” He said the road was “completely blocked by landslides, and there is no way we can get out if authorities do not come to our rescue soon.”

He said a storm was approaching, and he was unable to contact security officials.

“We are clinging together on the road, hoping the clouds will go away,” Mr. Banjara said. “I saw buildings crumble as we made our way here. Maybe there are people trapped in them. We have no way of knowing yet.”

Bal Krishna Sedai, who was stationed in the hill town of Dhunche with the Nepali Red Cross, described seeing “kind of havoc around us” as landslides continued for about half an hour on the surrounding slopes of the Himalayan foothills. He said some buildings in Dhunche were cracked and that many residents were pitching camps in open areas.

Mr. Norton of the World Health Organization said a landslide had covered the car of a medical team working near the epicenter of Tuesday’s quake; the team members were now searching for their driver, he said. Another team operating in the town of Tatopani, near the Chinese border, had been cut off by a landslide, he said.

CCTV, China’s state-run broadcaster, reported that one person had been killed and two injured in a landslide in Gyirong County, Tibet, that was triggered by the earthquake.

In Kathmandu, Kunda Dixit, the editor of The Nepali Times, described “some degree of panic” as the tremor “just became bigger and bigger and bigger, started rocking more and more and more.” He said that office workers ran into the street and that electric power was out and telephones were jammed.

“It started slow, it kept on swaying, and the birds were up in the air,” he said. “I looked outside and the electricity poles were just swaying from side to side, the wires were swaying.”

Video footage taken at the airport in Kathmandu showed hundreds of people rushing for the exits.

Madhu Prasad Regmi, secretary of the Nepal Election Commission in Kathmandu, said that when the quake started, “all the people inside the building started crying and ran outside in the open space.” About four hours later, the workers had not gone back inside, he said.

“The fear on people’s faces is very visible,” he said. “There are regular aftershocks. So the fear is very visible.”

Dhruba Prasad Ghimire, an aid worker who had been distributing food in a village west of Kathmandu, said buildings there shook and residents ran into the open in fear as the quake triggered landslides on nearby hills. But he said he had not seen anyone injured, and the buildings still standing in the village had not fallen down.

“It was very frightening again, but we will keep giving out food,” he said in a brief telephone interview. “We are O.K., but there were landslides and more of the aftershocks — you could see the ground falling down on the hills.”

He said, “People will be frightened. We don’t know if there will be more of these earthquakes.”

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