Kathmandu (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Today, a powerful 7.9 earthquake hit Nepal at 11:56 am, local time, at site located halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara, at a depth of 11 km. Nepali media have reported scores of casualties and serious damage to buildings.
In Kathmandu, an historic tower recognised by UNESCO collapsed, trapping at least 50 people. Built in 1832, the Dharahara Tower had been open to visitors for the past ten years and had a viewing balcony on its eighth floor.
According to Nepali officials, "at least 150 are confirmed dead", but the number is expected to rise.
Some agencies are reporting that death toll might have topped 450, but no official confirmation has been issued.
A Nepali minister, who said there had been "massive damage" at the epicentre, appealed to the international community for help and support.
The quake was felt as far as New Delhi and other cities of northern India, as well as in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Tibet. On Mount Everest, the quake triggered an avalanche that hit the base camp.
The main quake, which lasted about 90 seconds, was followed by at least eight other aftershocks, some of high intensity. Across the country, people poured into the streets in panic.
Since the quake hit, Kathmandu hospitals and health care workers have been working under emergency conditions.
Dozens of bodies have been recovered, but diplomatic sources and international media expect the toll rise into the hundreds.
In the capital, communications (phone and Internet services) were disrupted. The authorities also shut down transit services as well as Tribhuvan International Airport because of possible damages. Flights in and out of the Nepali capital were diverted to airports in northern India.
Nepal is highly seismic. In September 2011, a major quake struck the Himalayas, affecting Nepal, Tibet and India. Scores were killed, with whole areas devastated.
A 1934 quake of magnitude 8.3 killed more than 8,500 people in the impoverished Himalayan nation.