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More than 700 dead as 7.9 earthquake hits Nepal, at least 34 deaths in India

 
More than 700 killed in Nepal quake, 34 in India
A massive earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck Nepal just before noon today, claiming nearly 700 lives in that country and leaving at least 34 dead in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
 
The quake caused widespread devasation in Nepal, especially in the Kathmandu valley, and the tremors were felt across several parts of north, east, north-east, west and central India.
 
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said the temblor, with its epicentre at latitude 28.1°N and longitude 84.6°E, occurred at 1141 hours IST at a focal depth of 10 km, clearly one of the most powerful earthquakes to hit Nepal in nearly eight decades.
 
This was followed by a second quake, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, about 34 minutes later in the same area, about 80 km north-west of Kathmandu, the capital of the Himalayan country.
 
There were more than a dozen aftershocks reported over the next few hours.
 
Mr Laxmi Prasad Dhakkal, the spokesperson for Nepal's Ministry of Home Affairs, told television channels, on the basis of information received from 29 districts, that at least 686 people had died in the Himalayan country. 
 
The death toll is expected to go up as search and rescue teams dig through the rubble of collapsed buildings and reach some of the remote affected areas.
 
He said hundreds more had suffered injuries and that there was large scale devastation of public and private property.
 
At least 180 people were reported killed in Kathmandu alone, reports reaching here said.
 
At least 34 deaths were reported in India -- 23 in Bihar, eight in eastern Uttar Pradesh and three in West Bengal. Scores of people have suffered injuries, official sources said.
 
An Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft left for Kathmandu this afternoon with 45 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and with tonnes of relief material, rescue equipment, food and medicines.
 
Official sources said another plane was on standby and would leave soon, and a medical team would leave by a third aircraft later.
 
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar told journalists that more aircraft would fly to Nepal today. At least eight helicopters would also be sent for evacuation and supplies of essential commodities, he said.
 
Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told journalists that NDRF teams had been mobilised for rescue and relief operations in the affected areas of India. He also said that 10 NDRF teams had been kept in readiness to fly to Nepal.
 
He said that paramilitary forces and civil defence organisations were being mobilised to join the rescue and relief efforts.
 
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The earthquake caused caused widespead damage to buildings and other structures across the Kathmandu valley and many other parts of Nepal.
 
Nepalese officials told journalists that a lot of people were feared trapped under the debris of the collapsed buildings in different parts of the country.
 
The landmark nine-storeyed Dharahara tower in the centre of Kathmandu, a major tourist attraction, had collapsed in the quake, the sources said. Dozens of people were believed trapped under the debris of the structure.
 
Television pictures from the affected areas showed dozens of buildings had collapsed. Hundreds of people could be seen helping to clear the debris to search for survivors.
 
The pictures also showed some people being rescued from the rubble and being rushed to hospitals. Hospitals reported receiving scores of injured people.
 
Hundreds of tourists and pilgrims from India are believed to be in Nepal, and they have been advised to establish contact with the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.
 
The tremors were felt in several parts of India, including Delhi, Lucknow, Patna, Kolkata, Jaipur, Bhopal and Bhubaneswar.
 
People in many parts of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Meghalaya ran out of offices and homes in panic.
 
The tremors were also felt in many parts of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat, sources said.
 
The ground also shook in several parts of Bangladesh, the sources said.
 
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting of Ministers and senior officials to review the situation and directed immediate dispatch of relief and rescue teams as well as medical teams to Nepal as well as to the affected areas in India.
 
He also directed that proper arrangements be made for rendering assistance in evacuation of stranded tourists.
 
The meeting was informed that the first set of NDRF teams had aleady left for Kathmandu.
 
The meeting was attended by Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr Nripendra Misra, the Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr P.K. Mishra, and senior officials from the Government, IMD and NDRF. 
 
The Prime Minister had earlier spoken to Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, and the Chief Ministers of the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh.
 
He has assured Nepal of all assistance in dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake. 
 
Mr Modi was briefed on the inputs regarding the extent of damage to life and property received so far from various places in India and Nepal. 
 
The Union Government's Crisis Management Committee, which met earlier today, will be meeting again later today.
 
NNN
 
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