Nepal Earthquake: At Least 1,130 Dead After 7.9-Magnitude Tremor - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Nepal Earthquake: At Least 1,130 Dead After 7.9-Magnitude Tremor

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NBC News - The death toll from a powerful 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal kept rising on Saturday, with police telling the Associated Press that at least 1,130 people were confirmed dead.

The quake destroyed homes and ancient temples, and triggered at least one avalanche on Mount Everest. The number of deaths was not immediately confirmed by NBC News; earlier, Minendra Rija, the country's minister of information and communications, said nearly 600 people had died, but cautioned, "That number may rise."

The quake hit just before noon local time (2:15 a.m. ET), with an epicenter about 50 miles from the capital of Kathmandu and 50 miles east of Nepal's second-largest city, Pokhara. It was felt as far as neighboring countries, and killed at least 34 people in India, 12 in Tibet and two in Bangladesh, the Associated Press reported.

The shallow quake is the worst to hit the Himalayan nation — which is landlocked between India and China — in nearly a century. It struck during the spring climbing season, when hundreds of thousands of tourists come for mountain-trekking and to tour the ancient Hindu temples in Kathmandu.

Climbers on Mount Everest were sent running for their lives when the earthquake set off at least one avalanche. At least eight people died and more than two dozen were injured in the avalanche on the world's highest mountain, according to the AP.

"A massive earthquake just hit Everest. Basecamp has been severely damaged. Our team is caught in camp 1. Please pray for everyone," mountaineer Daniel Mazur tweeted hours after the quake.

Among the climbers who were safe are Americans Melissa Arnot and Jon Mancuso. Arnot is attempting to become the first American woman to reach the top of Mount Everest without oxygen support.

There was little information coming from the outlying areas of the mountainous country and helicopters were circling overheard to get a better sense of the damage.

"We are totally cut off from most parts of our country," said Ram Narayan Pandey of the Nepal Disaster Management Authority, according to Reuters.

Shristi Mainali described the terrifying moment the earthquake could be felt in Kathmandu, which has nearly one million people in its metro area.

"It was a sound like thunder," the 21-year-old nursing student told NBC News. "It lasted for more than a minute... it was really shaking, shaking, shaking."

Residents in her neighborhood in Kathmandu had fled their homes after the initial earthquake and a series of strong aftershocks, Mainali said.

"They are terrified that the aftershocks may come again," she said. "We are staying away from big walls, sitting in the middle of the road."

Donatella Lorch, a journalist who lives in Nepal, was driving her son to a pizza place when the quake struck.

"Initially I thought I had a flat tire, but then it was almost like you were being buffeted like a small boat in the ocean. the road was going in waves," she said. "Everyone else was driving erratically, slamming on the brakes, people screaming, motorcycles falling in front of us, trees completely bent in two."

Many buildings were destroyed in the center of Old Kathmandu, including ancient temples and towers, resident Prachanda Sual told the AP. The old part of Kathmandu city is a densely packed warren of lanes with poorly built homes crowded closely together.

Nepal has had a fair share of natural disasters. Its worst earthquake, in 1934, killed more than 10,000 people, according to the United States Geological Survey.

In China, hundreds of soldiers belonging to the Shigatse military garrison rushed to the border to help with Saturday's rescue, reported the Chinese Liberation Daily.

The USGS revised up the size of the earthquake, which was felt in neighboring India and Pakistan, from an initial 7.5-magnitude estimate.

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