09/19/2011, 00.00
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Himalaya quake kills at least 32 in Nepal, Tibet and India

by Kalpit Parajuli
A 6.8 quake hits a large area of the mountain chain. The death toll and costs are bound to rise because some areas are hard to reach. In Nepal, two important Buddhist monasteries suffer damage.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – At least 32 people were killed in an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale. The earth shook a broad region of the Himalayan chain between India, Nepal and Tibet. The extent of damages caused by the quake is coming to light as time goes by even though many areas of the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim remain isolated because of landslides blocking the main mountain roads. According to official sources, 18 people died in India, 7 in Nepal and another 7 in Tibet. About a hundred people are believed to be injured, whilst an unknown number are still trapped under the rubbles.

Many people are still missing. Indian media have reported that 50 Indian soldiers have gone missing during rescue operations, which have been made more treacherous by heavy rains yesterday.

The quake’s epicentre is in Taplejung on the border between Sikkim and Nepal, a sparsely populated area that is hard to reach. Various army units have been sent to the region. So far, 300 people, including 25 tourists, some foreign, have been rescued.

In Nepal, 36 homes collapsed, plus two monasteries, in the eastern part of the country. Many people panicked, screaming and calling for help. Some were injured when they tried to flee by jumping from windows.

In a few minutes, buildings in Kathmandu were empty, including the country’s parliament where lawmakers were discussing next year’s budget. Most parliamentarians in attendance fled to the parking space next to the assembly building.

Some fled in slippers or shoes in their hands. Nepali Congress leader Prakash Man Singh said, as he saw fellow lawmakers flee parliament, that “life is important and people don't think of other things”. As they rushed out, lawmakers left mobile phones, laptops, bags and other belongings.

Meanwhile, the death toll is expected to rise. Three people died when a wall at the British Embassy compound collapsed.

The quake also damaged two buildings with great historical and cultural significance for Nepali Buddhism, namely the Jyalsa Monastery in Salleri and the Bikicholing, which is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the country.
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