Nepal scrambles to rescue survivors of a quake that shook its northwest and killed at least 128


KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepalese authorities said their focus was on finding survivors after a strong earthquake shook districts in northwestern Nepal just before midnight Friday, killing at least 128 people and injuring dozens more.

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

“The priority is to find the survivors and take them to hospital,” said regional police chief, Bhim Dhakal, “while we recover bodies of the deceased.”

Troops were clearing roads and mountain trails blocked by landslides triggered by the earthquake. Helicopters flew in medical workers and medicines to the hospitals there.

Security forces on the ground were digging out the injured and dead from the rubble, Nepal police spokesperson Kuber Kadayat said.

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 neighbors was in the same situation and screaming for help. It took nearly a half-hour to an hour before rescuers found me,” he said.

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.

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 epicenter was at Jajarkot, which is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) northeast of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

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.

In Jajarkot district, where the c was, 92 people were confirmed dead and 55 others injured, Kadayat, the police spokesperson said. The quake killed at least 36 people in neighboring Rukum district, where numerous houses collapsed, and at least 85 injured people were taken to the local hospital, he said.

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

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

Neighboring 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.

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