KATHMANDU: A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on Saturday, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said, with strong tremors felt across the Himalayan nation and large parts of India and Bangladesh.
The death toll from a massive earthquake which devastated large parts of Nepal on Saturday has risen to 449, according to police.
“The death toll based on information received on our network across the country has reached 449,” national police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam told AFP.
“Deaths have been reported from all regions except the far west. All our security personnel have been deployed to rescue and assist those in need.”
The quake struck 81 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu at 0611 GMT, with walls crumbling and families racing outside of their homes.
“The walls of houses have collapsed around me onto the road. All the families are outside in their yards huddled together. The tremors are still going on,” an AFP reporter said in Kathmandu.
Initially measured at 7.5 magnitude, the quake was later adjusted to 7.9, with a depth of 15 kilometers, the USGS said. It hit 68 kilometers east of the tourist town of Pokhara.
Witnesses and media reports said the quake tremors lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes and were felt across the border in India, including in the capital New Delhi.
“We are in the process of finding more information and are working to reach out to those affected, both at home and in Nepal,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.
The AFP office in Delhi was evacuated twice following the quake, a correspondent said.
Laxman Singh Rathore, director-general of the Indian Meteorological Department, told reporters that the impact had been felt across large swathes of northern India.
“The intensity was felt in entire north India. More intense shocks were felt in eastern UP (Uttar Pradesh) and Bihar, equally strong in sub-Himalayan West Bengal, Sikkim,” he said.
Rathore said that a second tremor of a 6.6 magnitude had been recorded around 20 minutes later and centered around the same region.
“Since it is a big earthquake, there are aftershocks and people should stay cautious,” he said.
“The damage potential of any earthquake above seven magnitude is high. The duration of the earthquake tremors was different at different places. It was around 50-55 seconds long in Delhi.”
The earthquake was also felt across large areas of Bangladesh, triggering panic in the capital Dhaka as people rushed out onto the streets.
In the garment manufacturing hub of Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, at least 50 workers were injured after the quake set off stampede in a garment factory, according to private Jamuna television.