Rescue struggle in Nepal are underway following a devastating earthquake in the Jajarkot region, the country’s worst in eight years. The earthquake, which struck at 11:47 p.m. local time on Friday, had varying magnitude estimates, with Nepal’s National Seismological Centre reporting it as 6.4, the German Research Centre for Geosciences measuring it at 5.7, and the U.S. Geological Survey at 5.6. As of now, 157 people have been reported dead, but officials fear the death toll could rise as first responders continue to reach the affected area, located some 500 kilometers west of the capital, Kathmandu.
The earthquake’s relatively moderate magnitude has led to a high death toll and significant damage due to the poor construction quality in the area and the fact that it struck while people were sleeping. Rescue operations are expected to be slow, as emergency teams must clear roads blocked by landslides in many places. Helicopters and small planes have been put on standby to join the effort as needed.
This earthquake marks the deadliest since the devastating earthquakes in 2015, which claimed the lives of around 9,000 people and caused massive destruction, including the collapse of centuries-old temples and historic sites, along with the destruction of more than a million houses, resulting in an estimated cost to the economy of $6 billion.
The epicenter of this recent earthquake was in the village of Ramidanda, and aftershocks have been a significant concern, with 175 recorded in Jajarkot, six of which had a magnitude of 4 or higher. The affected region includes three towns and three villages, with a scattered population in remote hills.
Numerous houses have collapsed, and many others have developed cracks, leaving thousands of residents spending the night in open grounds due to fear of aftershocks. Rescue workers have been tirelessly searching through rubble, sometimes with their bare hands, and injured individuals are being transported to hospitals, including via rescue helicopters.
Nepal’s Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has arrived in the affected area with an army medical team to oversee the search, rescue, and relief efforts. His office has appealed to political parties, social workers, and the public to contribute funds to provide food, water, clothing, and tents for survivors. India and China have also offered assistance in search and rescue operations.
The earthquake’s impact was felt as far away as New Delhi, approximately 600 kilometers from the epicenter, causing buildings to shake and residents to take to the streets. While there were no reports of damage in northern Indian states bordering Nepal, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed solidarity with Nepal and offered assistance.