Katmandu, Nepal – A massive earthquake shook the very foundation of Mt. Everest, reduced centuries of history to rubble, flattened homes and claimed the lives of over 2400 people so far. The 7.8 magnitude quake near the capital, Katmandu, has reduced whole blocks to rubble all over the city. Emergency personnel, locals and even tourists have all joined together in a desperate search for survivors. A death toll of 1,910 was provided Sunday by Laxmi Dhakal, an official at the Nepalese Ministry of Home Affairs, but that count has risen to 2400 as the full extent of the damage is assessed. So far, the deaths reported have come mainly from information reported in the larger main cities, but the area affected by the quake includes many rural towns as well. “The information we received from the field is that 80% of the houses in these rural areas have been destroyed,” says Lex Kassenberg, Nepal country director for CARE International.The massive quake caused multiple avalanches on Mt. Everest that has claimed at least 17 lives according to reports so far. The Indian Army’s Everest Expedition evacuated the bodies of 13 mountaineers from a base camp who had been preparing to scale the mountain, spokesman Col. Rohan Anand said Saturday. The collapse of the historic nine-story Dharahara tower, one of Nepal’s iconic landmarks built-in 1832, left approximately 180 dead and as many as 200 trapped inside. The landmark had previously been leveled during a massive 1934 earthquake, and then rebuilt.
Multiple intense aftershocks rocked the area long after the initial quake as well. The aftershocks rattled already rattled rescuers and hamper efforts to save lives in already unstable areas. The quake was the strongest in the region in more than 80 years. “The reports of the devastation are still coming in and the numbers of people killed, injured and affected by this earthquake continue to rise,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement. “It is clear that very many lives have been lost.” An estimated 4.6 million people in the region were exposed to tremors from the earthquake, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said via Twitter. Thirty out of 75 Nepal districts were affected by the quake. China’s state media is reporting that at least 13 were killed when roads buckled and buildings collapsed in neighboring Tibet as well.
The full extent of the devastation and loss of life is not yet known, but early indications point to an extraordinary tragedy and disaster is unfolding.