Massive Magnitude-7.9 Earthquake Hits Nepal; Widespread Damage and Deaths Reported

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(Credit: USGS)

A massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake has struck Nepal less than 50 miles from the capital, Kathmandu, the U.S. Geological Survey said Saturday. Witnesses said people were killed and injured, and historic buildings in Kathmandu had tumbled to the ground.

At least eight aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or greater were recorded in Nepal following the initial 7.9 quake, according to the USGS.

CNN’s Manesh Shrestha, who was himself injured, said he saw five bodies at a hospital. People with severe injuries were being treated outside, with doctors administering CPR on at least one person, Shrestha said.”It’s quite chaotic,” he said. “People are wailing, crying.”Shrestha, who needed stitches, was turned away because other people were more seriously injured. He saw people with broken bones and serious head injuries, he said.Avalanches were reported on Mount Everest, sending mountaineers running for cover.

“Everest base camp huge earthquake then huge avalanche from pumori,” Twitter user Alex Gavan said. “Running for life from my tent. Unhurt. Many many people up the mountain.”

The quake, which struck at 11:41 local time (05:51 GMT). occurred at a depth of 9.3 miles, which is considered shallow and potentially more damaging than a quake emanating from deeper under the earth’s crust. But it was reported by people who felt it as seeming to last a very long time.

Eight aftershocks have already been felt, witnesses said, and people are gathered outdoors in fear, a reporter told CNN by phone

The USGS previously rated the temblor at 7.5 magnitude but later upgraded the strength. The USGS reported aftershocks at strengths of 6.6 and 5.1, among others.

People experienced quake as ‘severe’ to ‘violent’

The shaking was felt by people who contacted the USGS as “severe” to “violent,” nearly the highest rating on the intensity scale. Tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, more than 200 miles away in neighboring India. An official said it was felt there at magnitude 5.0.

The shaking was rated as “strong” to “severe” on the USGS ShakeMap. CNN sister network CNN-IBN reported that buildings were down and roads were out.

Kanak Masni, a journalist in Kathmandu, told CNN by phone that a historic building in Kathmandu called Dharahara — also known as Bhimsen Tower — was down. The building, nearly 63 meters tall, provided visitors with a panoramic view of of the Kathmandu valley. It was built in 1832.

Masni told CNN by telephone that this appeared to be “the most massive earthquake to hit central Nepal since 1934.” In that quake, which was 8.0 magnitude and centered near Mount Everest, more than 10,000 people were reported killed.

IBN reporter K. Dhiksit looked out his window in Kathmandu and saw the walls of many buildings down. As he watched, an aftershock rattled the street. He heard “big booming sounds,” and people fled into the streets, he said.

Photos of caved-in and toppled buildings appeared on social media. Kathmandu, which sits in a valley surround by the Himalayas, has a population of 1 million people.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet, “We are in the process of finding more information and are working to reach out to those affected, both at home & in Nepal.”