At least 128 people were killed and hundreds injured when a powerful earthquake shook western Nepal late Friday, government officials said.
Rescuers were trying to push through roads blocked by landslides and debris to reach the mountainous villages where the earthquake struck. Officials cautioned that the death toll was likely to rise as daylight better revealed the extent of the devastation, and 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 earthquakes to differ and 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 away.
In the district of Jajarkot, the epicenter of the earthquake about 310 miles west of Kathmandu, the capital, the death toll stood at 92, with 500 others injured, according to Harishchandra Sharma, a senior officer in the local administration there. He said thousands of houses in the district had been damaged.
“We are yet to receive information from some places, as the telephone network is not working,” Mr. Sharma said. “Death toll is likely to go up.”
In another quake-affected district, Rukum West, 36 deaths were confirmed, with 53 people injured.
“Security personnel are mobilized for the rescue operation,” said Hari Prasad Panta, an official in the district. “We have been focused on saving lives from the midnight.”
Nepal’s prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, said he had instructed the army and national police forces to be mobilized for rescue and relief operations.
Earthquakes are common in mountainous Nepal, which sits on a fault line of two major tectonic plates. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015 killed some 9,000 people and damaged about one million structures. Its economic impact was estimated in billions of dollars in one of the poorest countries in South Asia.