At least 128 people were killed and dozens injured in Nepal when a strong earthquake struck the western area of Jajarkot, officials said on Saturday, as houses in the area collapsed, and buildings as far as New Delhi in neighboring India shook.
The earthquake occurred at 11:47 pm (1802 GMT) on Friday with a magnitude of 6.4, as reported by Nepal’s National Seismological Centre. The German Research Centre for Geosciences measured the quake at 5.7, downgrading it from 6.2, while the US Geological Survey pegged it at 5.6, according to Reuters.
This earthquake is the deadliest in Nepal since 2015 when about 9,000 people were killed in two earthquakes in the Himalayan country.
Officials fear that the death toll from Friday’s quake could rise, as they have not been able to establish contact in the hilly area near the epicenter, which is approximately 500km (300 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, where tremors were also felt. The district has a population of 190,000, with villages scattered in remote hills.
Jajarkot district official Harish Chandra Sharma told Reuters, “The number of injured could be in the hundreds, and the deaths could go up as well.”
Police spokesperson Kuber Kadayat said that 92 people were killed in Jajarkot, and 36 in the neighboring Rukum West district, both in Karnali province. The epicenter was in the village of Ramidanda.
At least 85 people were injured in Rukum West and 55 in Jajarkot, according to an official in the prime minister’s office, while Sharma mentioned that at least 50 people were in hospitals in Jajarkot alone.
Sharma added, “Many houses have collapsed, many others have developed cracks. Thousands of residents spent the entire night in cold, open grounds because they were too scared to go into the cracked houses as aftershocks struck.”
Search and rescue teams must clear roads blocked by landslides, triggered by the earthquake, to reach the affected areas, said police officer Namaraj Bhattarai.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal flew to the area early on Saturday with a 16-member army medical team to oversee search, rescue, and relief efforts, his office said.
Dahal expressed deep sorrow at the loss of life and property in the quake and ordered security agencies to launch immediate rescue and relief operations, posting on X, formerly Twitter.
Local media footage showed crumbled facades of multi-storied brick houses, with large pieces of furniture scattered. Videos on X showed people running into the streets as some buildings were evacuated.
“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,” police official Santosh Rokka said by phone.