Kathmandu: After initial panic and chaos, prayers began to be offered in Nepal with the realisation that the earthquake that hit its eastern region and capital city Kathmandu along with India Sunday could have wreaked far greater devastation, being the biggest in almost eight decades. Nine people were killed.
As the resilient Himalayan state began to limp back to normal Monday following a trembler measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, the toll had risen to at least nine with the news of another unconfirmed casualty, while over 100 people had received injuries with hundreds of houses and buildings collapsing.
The cramped capital, full of decrepit houses and little adherence to building regulations, suffered with three people dying in a wall collapse while over 50 were injured trying to jump down from windows and balconies in the panic.
Police said Monday the nine ft wall fencing the compound of the British Embassy in the Lainchaur area of the capital, close to the Indian Embassy, collapsed Sunday evening, soon after the jolt, smashing down on a two-wheeler, a car and a pedestrian.
Sajan Shrestha, a 38-year-old security guard employed by the Danish government`s aid agency Danida was riding past the embassy on his two-wheeler with his teenaged daughter Anisha when the concrete wall fell on them, injuring both severely.
A passerby, Bir Bahadur Majhi, in his late teens, was also fatally injured.
Army and armed police personnel assisted by locals dug out the three from under the debris and rushed them to the Manmohan Memorial Hospital where all three succumbed to their injuries.
Four more people in a passing car were also injured and were receiving medical treatment, police said.
In Dharan town in eastern Sunsari district, a popular recruitment centre for the Indian and British Armies, Santosh Pariyar, in his 30s, a tailor associated with the Nepal Army, and his nephew Bimal Pariyar, 7, died when the roof of their room collapsed.
On Monday morning, more casualties were reported.
A sixth man, Ishwor Gyawali, was killed in Bhaktapur district in Kathmandu valley.
In the east, a 40-year-old woman, Madhu Karki, had been killed in Dhankuta district, and an eighth, a young girl identified as Ayesha Ghimire, had succumbed to injuries in Mechi town close to the Indian border.
The ninth death was reported from Sankhuwasabha district with the victim identified as Pradeep Rai.
The National Seismological Centre said it was the biggest tremor to hit Nepal since 1934 when a quake measuring 8.4 had killed over 8,500 people in the Himalayan state alone besides causing damage in India`s Bihar state.
Officials said Nepal was spared greater havoc this time since the epicentre of the quake was farther away in Sikkim in northeastern India and not in Bihar, the Indian state adjoining Nepal`s boundary.
The probability of yet another immediate jolt was also lessened by nearly three dozen smaller tremors appearing in quick succession after the biggest one.
"I thought I had a bout of dizziness," said Pramila Majhi, a construction worker who had taken her son to the doctor`s when the quake struck. "The room spun around, the walls tilted. I knew I could not run down to the streets with my sick son. So I simply prayed."
Hundreds of people rushed out on the streets in the capital with little open space, crying and taking the names of gods as the tremors started. There were scenes of people jumping down from upper stories and sustaining injuries.
In two prisons in the capital - the Central Jail and Dillibazar Jail - some prisoners received broken arms and legs in the ensuing stampede as they tried to run out.
In Thamel, Kathmandu`s tourist area, and the nearby five-star hotels, foreign guests rushed out on the streets and could be persuaded to go back to their rooms only after the alarm subsided.
The chaos was compounded by heavy rains and a temporary power blackout. Telephone lines were hit and the dark roads were filled with the blare of ambulances.
Nepal`s parliament was in session when the quake struck, causing alarmed lawmakers to scream and run out for safety. Chairman Subash Nembang said he was adjourning the house for some time.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, poised to depart for New York Sunday night to attend the 66th UN General Assembly, called an emergency meeting of the cabinet to discuss rescue and relief measures.
Panic also spread among mountaineers on different expeditions in the Himalayan region and many houses in northern Lukla district, considered the gateway to Mt Everest, had developed cracks.