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Strong Aftershock Hits Nepal As Quake Toll Mounts

  • RFE/RL

Rescue workers remove the body of a victim in Kathmandu.

Rescue workers remove the body of a victim in Kathmandu.

A powerful aftershock struck Nepal as the death toll from a devastating earthquake rose above 2,500 and rescuers dug through rubble in search of survivors and the dead.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the magnitude 6.7 aftershock on April 26 was centered northeast of the badly damaged capital, Kathmandu, near the border with China.

The USGS said it struck at a very shallow depth of 10 kilometers and that damage was very likely within a radius of 50 kilometers.

In Kathmandu, the ground trembled and people shouted and ran for open areas to escape injury.

The aftershock rocked buildings in the Indian capital, New Delhi, and halted the city metro there.

It was the strongest of a number of aftershocks that followed the magnitude 7.9 earthquake that hit Nepal's densely populated Kathmandu Valley on April 25.

The death toll in the country's worst quake in 81 years mounted as the rescue operation got into full swing, with workers sending out tents and relief supplies in trucks and helicopters.

Nepal's Interior Ministry said the confirmed death toll from the April 25 quake was 2,430, not including the 18 people that the Nepal Mountaineering Association says died in an earthquake-triggered avalanche on Mount Everest. Most of the deaths occurred in and around Kathmandu.

A further 61 people have died in neighboring India, while casualties have also been reported in China and Bangladesh.

Seventeen bodies were recovered at the base camp on Mount Everest, which was hit by wall of snow after the quake.

"There is a lot of confusion on the mountain. The toll will rise," said Gelu Sherpa, who was among the first 15 injured climbers flown to Kathmandu, his head in bandages.

Across Nepal, tens of thousands of people spent the night in the open, too afraid to return to homes damaged in the quake.

People used their hands in many places to dig for survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The United Nations said hospitals were overcrowded, running out of room for storing dead bodies, and running short of emergency supplies.

Medics were treating overflow patients in hastily erected tents and hospital staff at times fled buildings for fear of further collapses.

Bodies were still arriving at one hospital in Kathmandu, where a police officer said his team had brought 166 corpses overnight.

Several buildings in the center of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, were destroyed, including centuries-old temples and towers.

Tthe 60-meter Dharahara Tower, built in 1832 for the queen of Nepal, was reduced to a jagged stump.

Aid groups said they were readying staff to go to Nepal with supplies to provide clean water, sanitation, and emergency food.

The United States, Britain, Germany, France, and Pakistan were among countries providing search-and-rescue experts.

In the Vatican, Pope Francis on April 26 led prayers in St. Peter's Square for the dead and displaced.

Francis called for assistance for the survivors during his weekly Sunday blessing.

Rescue operations still have not begun in towns in some remote areas.

The earthquake, centered eight kilometers east of the city of Pokhara, was particularly destructive because it was shallow.

The quake was felt in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China's Tibet region.

It killed at least 60 people outside Nepal.

More than 1,000 climbers were on Mount Everest at the start of their season when the quake struck, sending an avalanche down on part of the base camp.

Climber Jim Davidson said on Twitter that the aftershock was "smaller than [the] original quake" but caused a glacier to shake and set off avalanches.

Nepal, located between India and China, has had its share of natural disasters. Its worst earthquake, in 1934, killed more than 8,500 people.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, CNN, and BBC
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