Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

An earthquake victim is carried on a stretcher at Bheri hospital in Nepalgunj, Nepal, Nov. 4, 2023.Niranjan Shrestha/The Associated Press

The death toll of a strong earthquake that shook Nepal’s northwest has risen to 157, the National Emergency Operation Center announced Saturday.

Most of those killed were crushed by debris when their houses – usually made by stacking rocks and logs – crumbled under the force of the tremblor midnight Friday, local media reported.

While rescuers were scrambling to rush much-needed aid to the affected area, operations were hampered by the fact that many of the mountainous villages could only be reached by foot. Roads were also blocked by landslides triggered by the earthquake. Soldiers could be seen trying to clear the blocked roads.

The government is trying to get as much aid to the affected areas, deputy prime minister, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, said on Saturday. Tents, food and medicine were flown in as thousands became homeless overnight.

Besides aid, rescuers are focusing on finding survivors, officials said.

“The priority is to find the survivors and take them to hospital,” said regional police chief, Bhim Dhakal.

Local television aired footage of troops recovering bodies while others helped dig out and carry the injured.

The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.6 and occurred at a depth of 11 miles. Nepal’s National Earthquake Monitoring & Research Center said its epicentre was at Jajarkot, which is about 400 kilometres (250 miles) northeast of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

In Jajarkot district, a mostly agricultural area, at least 105 people were confirmed dead and 52 in the neighbouring Rukum district, officials said. Another 184 were injured.

Security officials worked with villagers all through the night in the darkness to pull the dead and injured from fallen houses.

The death toll was expected to rise as communications were still cut off in many places, authorities said.

Doctors and medical workers were flown to the areas hit where hospitals were packed with the injured.

At the regional hospital in the city of Nepalgunj, more than 100 beds were made available and teams of doctors stood by to help the injured.

“I was fast asleep when all of a sudden it started shaking violently. I tried to run but the whole house collapsed. I tried escaping but half my body got buried in the debris,” said Bimal Kumar Karki, one of the first people to be brought to the regional hospital.

“I screamed, but every one of my neighbours was in the same situation and screaming for help. It took nearly a half-hour to an hour before rescuers found me,” he said.

Another injured man recovering in the hospital also described getting buried while he was asleep.

“I was asleep at night and around 10 or 11 at night it started shaking and the house caved. So many houses have collapsed and so many people have been buried,” said Tika Ram Rana who had his head wrapped in a white bandage.

Besides rescue helicopters, small government and army planes able to land in the short mountain strips were also used to ferry the wounded to Nepalgunj.

Rescuers carried the injured in stretchers and transported them to ambulances which brought them to the hospital.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal flew in on a helicopter with a team of doctors. Dahal led an armed communist revolt in 1996-2006 that began in the districts that were hit by the quake.

He brought seven injured people on his helicopter back to a hospital, according to his office.

The quake, which hit when many people were already asleep in their homes, was felt in India’s capital, New Delhi, more than 800 kilometres (500 miles) away.

Earthquakes are common in mountainous Nepal. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015 killed some 9,000 people and damaged about 1 million structures.

Neighbouring India offered to help in the rescue efforts.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared on social media that he was deeply saddened by the loss of lives and damage due to the earthquake in Nepal.

“India stands in solidarity with the people of Nepal and is ready to extend all possible assistance,” he said.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe