More than 157 killed in powerful earthquake in Nepal

Officials continues to search for the injured and dead trapped under the rubble of fallen buildings, ITV News' Jay Akbar reports

At least 157 people have been killed and dozens more injured in a strong earthquake that shook northwestern Nepal just before midnight on Friday.

Authorities said the death toll was expected to rise, noting that communications were cut off in many areas.

Most of those killed were crushed by debris when their houses crumbled under the force of the quake shortly before midnight on Friday, local media reported.

While rescuers were scrambling to rush much-needed aid to the affected area, operations were hampered by the fact that many of the mountainous villages could only be reached by foot, while roads were also blocked by landslides triggered by the earthquake.

Tents, food and medicine were flown in as thousands became homeless overnight.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal flew in on a helicopter with a team of doctors. He brought seven injured people on his helicopter back to a hospital, according to his office.

The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.6 and occurred at a depth of 11 miles. Nepal’s National Earthquake Monitoring & Research Centre said its epicentre was at Jajarkot, which is about 400 kilometres (250 miles) northeast of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

The quake, which hit when many people already were asleep in their homes, was felt in India’s capital, New Delhi, more than 800 kilometres (500 miles) away.

At the regional hospital in the city of Nepalgunj, more than 100 beds were made available and teams of doctors stood by to help the injured.

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Bimal Kumar Karki, one of the first two people to be brought to the regional hospital, said: “I was fast asleep when all of a sudden it started shaking violently.

"I tried to run but the whole house collapsed. I tried escaping but half my body got buried in the debris.

"I screamed, but every one of my neighbors were in the same situation and screaming for help. It took nearly a half hour to an hour before rescuers found me."

Another injured man recovering in the hospital also described getting buried while he was asleep.

“I was asleep at night and around 10 or 11 at night it started shaking and the house caved. So many houses have collapsed and so many people have been buried,” said Tika Ram Rana who had his head wrapped in a white bandage.

Earthquakes are common in mountainous Nepal. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015 killed some 9,000 people and damaged about one million structures.

Neighbouring India offered to help in the rescue efforts. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared on social media that he was deeply saddened by the loss of lives and damage due to the earthquake in Nepal.

“India stands in solidarity with the people of Nepal and is ready to extend all possible assistance,” he said.