A massive earthquake measuring 7.9 magnitude struck west of the ancient Nepali capital of Kathmandu on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake, initially measured at 7.7 but upgraded to 7.9 magnitude, was only 2 km deep.
The death toll is unclear and expected to rise significantly as walls of several houses reduced to rubble in Kathmandu, where the buildings are home to large families.The death toll has risen to 449, most of it in the Kathmandu Valley, police said
At the main hospital in Kathmandu, people with broken limbs and arms were being rushed in for treatment. It was also unclear how many people were injured.
Several buildings collapsed in the centre of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples and towers. Among them was the Dharahara Tower, one of Kathmandu's landmarks built in the 1800s and a UNESCO-recognised historical monument. It was reduced to rubble and there were reports of people trapped underneath.
A 6.6-magnitude aftershock hit about an hour after the initial quake. Photographs posted online showed large cracks along roads and residents sitting in the street holding babies. National radio warned people to stay outdoors and maintain calm because more aftershocks were feared.
According to the reports, Nepal networks lost global Internet connectivity after the earthquake.
"Most new high rises in #Kathmandu ok, old buildings down. Temples reduced to rubble," Kunda Dixit, the editor of the Nepali Times newspaper, posted on Twitter. "Aftershocks were major jolts almost as severe as the main quake."
Tremors were felt as far away as New Delhi, Lahore in Pakistan and Lhasa in Tibet, 550 kilometres east of Kathmandu.
A 1934 quake of magnitude 8.3 in the impoverished Himalayan nation killed over 8,500 people.