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Powerful earthquake kills hundreds in Nepal

Magnitude 7.9 quake east of Pokhara was felt as far away as Delhi and Dhaka, killing at least 876 people.

The government of Nepal has declared a state of emergency after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck the country and killed hundreds of people, and touched off a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest.

Police said that at least 876 people were killed on Saturday in the powerful quake that shook 80km east of Pokhara, about half way between the town and the capital Kathmandu.

A home ministry official said at least 467 people were killed in the Kathmandu Valley, that is the most heavily populated part of the Himalyan country.

Photos posted on Twitter showed buildings left in rubble, large cracks along roads and worried residents on the streets.

The earthquake destroyed many historical landmarks, including the UNESCO World Heritage temples at Basantapur Durbar Square and the Dharara tower, both in central Kathmandu.

It has been reported that around 250 people may have been in the Dharara tower when it collapsed. At least 50 people are believed to be trapped under an ancient tower in Kathmandu which collapsed in the quake.

Emergency workers and army and police personnel, with the help of residents and bystanders, continued to work tirelessly early Saturday afternoon to clear the rubble from these sites and to rescue any survivors from under the debris, although most of the bodies that are being pulled out are lifeless.

As night falls in the country, thousands of people are staying outdoors and have found refuge in Kathmandu’s open spaces, in fear that subsequent aftershocks may cause further damage.

The epicentre was 80km northwest of Kathmandu. The Kathmandu valley is densely populated with nearly 2.5 million and poorly enforced building regulations. The Associated Press news agency cited a senior guide as saying that an avalanche swept a mountain near the Everest base camp. A tourism official later said that at least eight were killed in the incident.

Al Jazeera’s Subina Shrestha, reporting from Kathmandu, confirmed the reports of damage to buildings there. Some ancient temples were also reportedly damaged.

The US Geological Survey said the quake hit at 11:56am local time (06:11 GMT). It initially reported a magnitude 7.7 before revising the calculation to 7.5 and later upgraded to 7.9.

The USGS initally reported the epicentre to be 11km deep but later revised it to 2km.

Tremors were felt in a number of India’s northern cities, witnesses said. Al Jazeera’s reporters in New Delhi said the tremors were also felt across the Indian capital.

Al Jazeera’s Faiz Jamil said that the first tremor in New Delhi lasted for 20 seconds and a second one followed shortly after.

Indian officials said that at least 30 people were killed in the Bihar state and Uttar Pradesh state.

Al Jazeera’s Maher Sattar in Dhaka, Bangladesh, also reported sustained tremors there. He reported that at least three people were killed, including one who was killed following stampede triggered by the quake.

Laxman Singh Rathore, director-general of the Indian Meteorological Department, said that the impact had been felt across large swathes of northern India.

“The intensity was felt in entire north India. More intense shocks were felt in eastern UP (Uttar Pradesh) and Bihar, equally strong in sub-Himalayan West Bengal, Sikkim,” he said.

Rathore said that a second tremor of a 6.6 magnitude had been recorded around 20 minutes later and centred around the same region. (Al Jazeera)

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