Nepal Hit by Two Earthquakes

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The FINANCIAL — More earthquakes struck Nepal on May 12, killing dozens of people as the Himalayan nation was still mourning its dead and just beginning to recover after a massive temblor in April left more than 8,000 dead, according to Nasdaq.

A magnitude-7.3 quake hit at midday in a mountainous area east of Kathmandu, near Nepal’s border with China, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That was followed by a magnitude-6.3 event about 30 minutes later around 15 miles south, and a number of smaller aftershocks. The epicenter of the April 25 earthquake, which registered a 7.8 magnitude, was west of the Nepalese capital.

Forty-eight people are confirmed dead and 1,261 injured in Kathmandu and other areas, said Lakshmi Prasad Dhakal, a spokesman for Nepal’s home ministry. In the capital, homes, guesthouses and at least one school collapsed.

U.S. military officials on May 12 declared a U.S. military helicopter missing, saying the Huey with six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers aboard was last seen conducting humanitarian assistance over rugged terrain near Charikot in northeastern Nepal.

Officials couldn’t confirm whether the helicopter had crashed. But as hours passed without contact from its crew or sightings in a continuing search, officials grew more pessimistic.

In India, at least 17 people died and 39 were injured in Tuesday’s quakes, said Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia, a spokesman for the country’s home ministry.

China’sXinhua News Agency said at least one person died and two others were injured during landslides in Tibet’s Gyirong county, where a pass to Nepal had been made passable only this week, after a 13-day effort to clear landslides caused by the earthquake in April.

“We are in a state of shock,” said trekking-lodge owner Ang Tenzing Sherpa, who was in Kathmandu when the latest quakes struck. The capital had seemed to be returning to normal in the aftermath of April 25, with people going back to their homes. Now, they are again setting up tents outside to sleep in, Mr. Sherpa said.

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Radha Pathak was sitting in her Kathmandu grocery store when the ground started shaking. “Two buildings collapsed in front of my eyes,” she said. “I was terrified.”

One of the buildings housed an Internet cafe that was full of people at the time. Ms. Pathak, 48, said that one woman was rescued from the rubble with a bloodied face but that others may have been trapped inside.

When Tuesday’s quake hit, Tuesday’s quakes, like last month’s, wrought extensive destruction in Nepal’s hilly countryside. Brian Kelly, a humanitarian coordinator for the International Organization for Migration, was in the town of Chautara, in hard-hit Sindhupalchowk district, on a soccer field where international groups had set up temporary offices and a relief camp for families from last month’s temblor.

He watched on May 12 as buildings fell before him and landslides swept down terraced hills. “I felt that we were starting to catch up, so that we were pushing the envelope rather than chasing something,” Mr. Kelly said of the aid effort. The new quakes “set the clock back to Day One.”

Tremors on May 12 were felt as far away as New Delhi and Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital. No one was at Mount Everest’s base camp, said Tulsi Prasad Gautam, head of Nepal’sDepartment of Tourism, adding the government had evacuated the popular trekking region of Langtang on Monday. April’s earthquake triggered a deadly avalanche at Everest base camp and landslides that buried an entire Langtang village.

The latest destruction came as search-and-rescue operations related to April’s earthquake were winding down across Nepal, though some relief missions, including ones led by the U.S. and Indian militaries, were still working to get food and shelter to affected areas.

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Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations’ resident coordinator in Nepal, said the need for supplies like tarpaulins and blankets has been compounded. “We need the exact same things as before, but more of it and we need to get it up there quicker,” he said.

Before Tuesday’s quakes, the U.N. had been asking for $423 million in donations to help rebuild Nepal. As of Monday, only 10% of that had been received.

Even parts of Nepal’s capital lacked crucial supplies. Manju Dotel, a nurse at Kathmandu Medical College and Teaching Hospital, said 20 to 25 people were admitted on Tuesday with head injuries and fractures. “We don’t have enough equipment, but we are managing with the little we have, ” she said.

Seismologists said April’s earthquake was never likely to be the last to rattle the region in the near term.

“When an earthquake occurs, the area on the fault surrounding the region that ruptured is highly stressed and is brought closer to failure,” said Richard Walters, an earthquake geophysicist at the University of Leeds in the U.K. ” Therefore the chance of more earthquakes happening in this same region is increased.”

The additional damage from Tuesday’s quake means that large aftershocks are likely to continue for days or even weeks. That may further weaken buildings and cause landslides and avalanches, according to Sandy Steacy, head of the School of Physical Sciences at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

 

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