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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Earthquake in Nepal kills at least 150, thousands of families homeless

By Bhadra Sharma New York Times

KATHMANDU, Nepal – The death toll from a powerful midnight earthquake that struck western Nepal climbed to more than 150 people on Saturday, as authorities and aid organizations rushed to provide relief for thousands of families stranded under the open sky and fearful of aftershocks.

Rescuers worked through the day to push through roads blocked by landslides and debris to reach the mountainous villages of Karnali province where the earthquake struck. Officials cautioned that the death toll was likely to rise as communication was restored with areas that had been cut off.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the magnitude as 5.6. Nepal’s National Earthquake Monitoring and Research Center reported the magnitude at 6.4, with several small aftershocks spread over the following hours. It is not uncommon for estimates of an earthquake’s magnitude to differ or for them to be subsequently revised.

The earthquake hit near midnight, when people were sleeping. Tremors were also felt in India’s capital, New Delhi, hundreds of miles west.

After the initial quake, families in villages spent much of the night out under the open sky, fearing aftershocks. With about 5,000 houses destroyed or damaged, according to initial estimates made by disaster management authorities, entire villages prepared for another night outside.

“There was not a single house standing tall. Every house was damaged. Only dirt flying under the sky,” said Tapendra Rokaya, 29, who was visiting family in a village in the Jajarkot district for a Hindu festival.

In the Jajarkot district – the epicenter of the earthquake, about 310 miles west of Kathmandu, the capital – the death toll stood at 105, with 500 others injured, according to Harishchandra Sharma, a senior officer in the local administration there. He said thousands of homes in the district had been damaged.

In another quake-affected district, Rukum West, officials confirmed 52 deaths, with more than 300 people injured.

Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said in a statement that he had instructed the army and national police forces to mobilize for rescue and relief operations.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.