On Friday, a powerful earthquake struck remote western Nepal, claiming the lives of more than 100 people and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The affected areas, Jajarkot and West Rukum, located 500 kilometres (310 miles) west of Kathmandu, are characterised by rugged terrain, where security forces have been mobilised to support rescue efforts.
The tremors were so intense that they were felt as far away as the Nepalese capital and in neighbouring Indian cities, including Delhi. The aftermath of the quake left more than 100 people injured, overwhelming Jajarkot’s hospital with patients in need of immediate medical attention.
In the wake of the initial earthquake, three more tremors were felt within an hour, prompting many residents to spend the night in the open due to fears of further quakes and potential damage to their homes. Local media shared video footage showing the collapsed facades of multi-storied brick houses, and social media posts featured images of people working tirelessly in the dark to rescue survivors from the debris of buildings that had crumbled.
Nepal’s Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, swiftly departed for the affected region and expressed his deep sorrow over the loss of life and property caused by the earthquake. He ordered security agencies to initiate immediate rescue and relief operations, but these efforts have been hindered by blocked roads resulting from landslides triggered by the quake.
Suresh Sunar, the police chief of Jajarkot district, described the challenges they face in obtaining a comprehensive assessment of the situation. He explained, “I am out in the open myself. We are collecting details, but due to the cold and the nighttime conditions, it is difficult to gather information from remote areas.”
The earthquake occurred at 23:47 local time (18:02 GMT) as reported by Nepal’s Monitoring and Research Centre. The US Geological Survey recorded the earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6, classifying it as a shallow earthquake, meaning it occurred closer to the earth’s surface.
Nepal is situated in a seismically active region along the Himalayas, which is prone to earthquakes. Last month, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake occurred in the western district of Bajhang, resulting in injuries.
The country has a painful history of devastating earthquakes. In 2015, two powerful earthquakes, the first measuring 7.8 in magnitude, struck Nepal. These events resulted in the loss of 9,000 lives and injuries to 22,309 individuals. The quakes destroyed or damaged more than 800,000 houses, particularly in the western and central districts, and caused extensive damage to government buildings, roads, and historic monuments in the Kathmandu Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site.