A powerful midnight earthquake struck western Nepal, claiming the lives of over 130 people, and leaving hundreds injured, as search and rescue operations continue in the mountainous regions where the earthquake wreaked havoc. The disaster, which occurred near midnight, caught people off guard in their sleep, causing widespread devastation.
Rescue teams are tirelessly working to clear roads blocked by landslides and debris to reach the affected villages. Officials have expressed concerns that the death toll could rise further as communication is gradually restored in isolated areas. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the earthquake's magnitude as 5.6, while Nepal’s National Earthquake Monitoring and Research Centre recorded it at 6.4, accompanied by several aftershocks. Discrepancies in magnitude estimates are not uncommon in the aftermath of such natural disasters.
The district of Jajarkot, located about 310 miles west of Kathmandu, bore the brunt of the disaster, with a death toll of 95 and 500 individuals reported injured. Harishchandra Sharma, a senior officer in the local administration, revealed that thousands of homes in the district had been severely damaged, leaving communities devastated. Images circulating on social media depicted houses reduced to rubble, their roofs collapsed under the force of the earthquake.
In another heavily affected district, Rukum West, officials confirmed 38 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Reports from the ground indicate that medical facilities are overwhelmed, with patients being treated in hallways and balconies due to the influx of injured individuals. Helicopters are being deployed to airlift the critically injured to hospitals in nearby districts.
Bhim Khatri-Chhetri, a development official in Jajarkot, described the harrowing experience, stating, "I didn’t think I would survive last night. I feel lucky. We spent the night in the open." Many families spent the night outdoors, fearing aftershocks that could further destabilize their already precarious situations.
Nepal's Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has mobilized the army and national police forces for rescue and relief operations. Additionally, humanitarian organizations, under the coordination of Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, the United Nations resident coordinator for Nepal, are rapidly mobilizing relief support. Stockpiles from various parts of the country are being deployed to provide aid to the affected districts, offering crucial assistance to those in desperate need.
Earthquakes are not uncommon in Nepal, given its location on a fault line between two major tectonic plates. This disaster echoes the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake in 2015, which claimed the lives of approximately 9,000 people and damaged around one million structures. The economic repercussions of the 2015 earthquake were profound, impacting one of South Asia's poorest countries with losses estimated in billions of dollars.
As Nepal grapples with this latest tragedy, the nation's resilience is being tested once again. The international community, alongside local authorities, and humanitarian organizations, stands in solidarity with Nepal, offering support and assistance to help the country recover and rebuild in the face of this calamity.
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