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Deadly quake strikes Nepal, toppling homes and killing at least 157 people

At least 157 people have been killed in an earthquake that struck a remote part of northwestern Nepal overnight on Friday and toppled multiple buildings, according to police, as officials warned that the death toll could rise.

The quake measured magnitude 5.6 according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and hit some 42 kilometers (about 26 miles) from Jumla, Nepal, in Karnali province. It struck at a comparatively shallow depth of 18 kilometers and the tremors could be felt as far away as India’s capital, New Delhi.

“We are only focused on search and rescue operation right now,” Nepal police spokesperson Kuber Kadayat told CNN Saturday. “That’s why we don’t yet have a proper estimate of collapsed and damaged houses and other infrastructure. There are some villages where an estimated 90% of houses have collapsed.”

According to Kadayat, 157 people have so far been confirmed killed and 170 injured, making Friday’s tremor the deadliest since 2015.

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In Jajarkot district, close to the quake’s epicenter, 105 people were confirmed dead and another 55 injured. In nearby Rukum West district, 52 were killed and 85 injured, Kadayat said.

Footage from Reuters showed multiple houses reduced to smashed piles of bricks and timber in Jajarkot.

Army personnel carry an injured person on a stretcher after an earthquake in Jajarkot, Nepal, on November 4, 2023. - Nepal Army/Handout/Reuters
Army personnel carry an injured person on a stretcher after an earthquake in Jajarkot, Nepal, on November 4, 2023. - Nepal Army/Handout/Reuters

Earthquakes are common in Nepal, which lies where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet to create the towering Himalayan mountain range.

At least 9,000 people were killed in 2015 when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit, damaging some one million homes and buildings across swathes of the nation and causing $6 billion in damage.

Officials told Reuters that they feared casualties would rise in Friday’s quake because they had not been able to establish contact in the hilly area near the epicenter, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, where tremors were also felt.

“The number of injured could be in the hundreds and the deaths could go up as well,” Jajarkot district official Harish Chandra Sharma told Reuters by phone.

“Many houses have collapsed, many others have developed cracks. Thousands of residents spent the entire night in cold, open grounds because they were too scared to go into the cracked houses as aftershocks struck,” Sharma added.

Jajarkot district has a population of 190,000 with villages scattered in remote hills. Pictures released by AFP news agency showed survivors gathering at Jajarkot’s main hospital.

A damaged building is seen after an earthquake in Jajarkot, Nepal, November 4, 2023 - Nepal Prime Minister Office/Handout/Reuters
A damaged building is seen after an earthquake in Jajarkot, Nepal, November 4, 2023 - Nepal Prime Minister Office/Handout/Reuters

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences to the loved ones of those killed in the earthquake.

“Deeply saddened by loss of lives and damage due to the earthquake in Nepal,” Modi wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “India stands in solidarity with the people of Nepal and is ready to extend all possible assistance. Our thoughts are with the bereaved families and we wish the injured a quick recovery.”

This is a developing story and will be updated

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