Residents of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu woke up a day after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake to find that several districts of their city have been leveled and that the death toll had dramatically risen overnight.
At 4am (10:15 GMT), Nepal’s Ministry of Interior said that at least 1,400 people had been killed and that entire villages had been wiped out. At least 300 were reported to have been killed in the capital.
Authorities in Nepal said they expect the death toll to continue rising. Nepal’s Emergency Operations Center put the death toll at 1,457.
As it mounts rescue efforts and appeals for international assistance, the Nepalese government is worried about aftershocks, landslides and flooding.
A number of temples and historic buildings which endured for centuries have been flattened by the earthquake and more than dozen aftershocks.
Pictures of the destroyed Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to ancient palaces and temples, quickly surfaced on social media.
As journalists struggled to reach the devastation, volunteers raced against time amid the rubble to rescue people who had been trapped in the historic 183-year-old Dharahara Tower which had collapsed on Saturday.
Night vision helicopters were deployed overnight to light up the devastated streets, but incoming rain hampered some of the relief efforts.
During the night, thousands of residents searched for open spaces to sleep, fearing further aftershocks which could bring even more structures down.
Eyewitnesses told reporters that hospitals were overwhelmed; in some parts of the city, bodies were strewn in open areas.
According to international relief organizations such as Catholic Relief, many areas of Nepal were without electricity and water; the airport was also closed overnight.
The earthquake and aftershocks – one registered as high as 6.6 on the Richter scale – was so powerful that it caused avalanches which killed at least 18 people on Mount Everest.
Base camps of hundreds of Everest trekkers and climbers were also reportedly destroyed.
At least 34 people were killed in neighboring India where strong tremors were felt most of the day.
India quickly mobilized to provide support for rescue and relief efforts in Nepal. Overnight, two Indian air force transport planes arrived carrying tons of relief supplies and evacuated Indian citizens stranded in Nepal.
A rescue team is reported to have arrived in Kathmandu.
Russia is also dispatching a team of more than 50 rescue workers to Nepal to assist in the relief and rescue operations.
Many countries expressed sympathy and solidarity with Nepal. On Saturday, Egypt’s foreign ministry expressed its “most heartfelt condolences”.
The US said it was also sending a disaster response team to Nepal and authorized an initial $1 million to address immediate needs, the US Agency for International Development said Saturday.
China’s Earthquake Administration said it would dispatch a 68-personnel China International Search Rescue Team (CISAR) to Kathmandu early Sunday.
Late on Saturday, Norway said it would provide nearly $3.8 million through the UN and charitable groups to assist the Nepalese government’s relief efforts.
The BRICS POST with inputs from Agencies