Two earthquakes shortly after noon on Tuesday – with their epicentres in eastern Nepal – killed 43 people, according to initial estimates by the home ministry in Kathmandu. Coming shortly after the devastating quakes of April 25 – which have killed at least 8,000 people – the fresh quakes caused widespread panic in Nepal, India and Bangladesh.
Nepal’s home ministry said at least 1,000 people were injured as buildings – already weakened by the earlier quakes – collapsed in the fresh temblors, the first of which measured 7.3 on the Richter scale.
The epicentres of Tuesday’s quakes were near Namche Bazar, the famous base camp of the Everest climbers’ trail. There was no news from the area in the first hours after the quakes, leading to fears in Kathmandu that there may have been a catastrophe there. An estimated 100 people had died on the Everest trail in avalanches triggered by the April 25 quakes.
Residents of Kathmandu, already panicked by ongoing aftershocks, rushed out of their homes once again. Till late Tuesday afternoon, few had ventured back, there was no electricity and no internet connection, though mobile telephones were in working order.
The country’s only international airport in Kathmandu was closed today but reopened this evening and rescue helicopters have been sent to districts north-east of the capital, that are believed to be worst hit.
There was panic throughout India and Bangladesh as well, as the shallow quakes caused tremors as far as Chennai in southern India, well over 2,000 km from the epicentres. In New Delhi, Kolkata and Dhaka, residents rushed out of high rise homes and offices, schools and colleges were evacuated.
In northern Bihar, along the India-Nepal border closest to the epicentres, initial reports spoke of 10 deaths and the collapse of a number of huts. The area had seen serious damage and casualties on April 25.
Many of the deaths in Nepal were along the Kathmandu-Lhasa highway, which suffered serious damage once more, according to Nepal government officials. The Chinese government’s official Tibet microblog reported one death and several injuries due to falling rocks.Nyalam county has been badly affected say authorities, where buildings collapsed and roads were blocked.
Apart from all the death and damage, students throughout Nepal now risk losing a part of an academic year, as the government extended the closure of all schools and colleges by another two weeks. Educational institutions have been closed since April 25, since many of the buildings now house people displaced by the quakes. The authorities had earlier promised to review the order on May 14, but now there is no possibility of schools and colleges opening immediately after that.