US & World

Nepal earthquake: Death toll rises, relief organizations gear up to help

A group of people listen to news updates on a radio near Basantapur Durbar Square following an earthquake on April 25, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving hundreds dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors.
A group of people listen to news updates on a radio near Basantapur Durbar Square following an earthquake on April 25, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving hundreds dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors.
Omar Havana/Getty Images
A group of people listen to news updates on a radio near Basantapur Durbar Square following an earthquake on April 25, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving hundreds dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors.
Kathmandu residents sit in open spaces as tremors hit the city following an earthquake on April 25, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving hundreds dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors.
Omar Havana/Getty Images
A group of people listen to news updates on a radio near Basantapur Durbar Square following an earthquake on April 25, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving hundreds dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors.
People clear rubble in Kathmandu's Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was severely damaged by an earthquake on April 25, 2015. A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed hundreds of people April 25 as it ripped through large parts of Nepal, toppling office blocks and towers in Kathmandu and triggering a deadly avalanche that hit Everest base camp.
PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
A group of people listen to news updates on a radio near Basantapur Durbar Square following an earthquake on April 25, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving hundreds dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors.
Injured people receive treatment outside the Medicare Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said.
Niranjan Shrestha/AP


A massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal Saturday, killing more than 4,000 people across southeast Asia, including in India, Bangladesh and Tibet. The temblor trigger over a dozen aftershocks and an avalanche at Mt. Everest that killed at least 10 climbers, according to initial reports. Rescue efforts are under way, and the United States has pledged auxiliary support and $1 million in the search for survivors. California's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 deployed Sunday afternoon to provide support to local emergency operations in Nepal.

April 26, 4:26 p.m.: CA's Search and Rescue Task Force to deploy to Nepal 

California's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 (A-TF2) will be deploying to provide support to local emergency operations in Nepal, according to a statement from the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. 

The task force — sponsored by the Los Angeles County Fire Department — is staffed with 57 personnel, and will be sent to the hardest hit areas of the country conducting search and rescue operations.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Nepalese people and we are eager to get our world-class first responders on the ground to help those that are still being impacted by this terrible event," Cal OES Director, Mark Ghilarducci, said in the statement.

The Task Force is expected to arrive on Monday in Kathmandu, Nepal.

- Brian De Los Santos

April 26, 3:04 p.m.: Local Nepalese community affected by quake

The earthquake that’s killed thousands in Nepal has also rattled Nepali immigrants in Southern California. Some have yet to reach family members. Jamak Niraula, an Artesia resident, said he’s worried about family members.

“My brother and my sister and my uncle, they live in a terrible place in Kathmandu and still we don’t have contact with them," Niraula said. "The phone system is not working."

He said it took him 24 hours after the quake to reach his mother in eastern Nepal. He said she’s okay, but is camping outside her home for fear of aftershocks.

Local Nepalese expat groups are helping raise funds for relief efforts. 

Niraula estimates there are 40,000 to 50,000 Nepalis living in Southern California.

- Leslie Berestein Rojas

April 26, 12:15 p.m.: More than 2,500 confirmed dead

The official number of dead from Saturday's Himalayan earthquake has topped 2,500 and may continue to rise as remote areas near the epicenter are searched.

Nepal authorities said Sunday that at least 2,430 people in that country had died in Nepal alone, not including the 18 people that the Nepal Mountaineering Association says died in an earthquake-triggered avalanche on Mount Everest. Another 61 people died from the quake in India and a few in other neighboring countries.

With search and rescue efforts far from over, it was unclear how much the death toll would rise.

Landslides are hindering rescue teams trying to reach remote villages after the devastating earthquake in Nepal. A member of the aid group World Vision says rescuers will likely have to get in by helicopter.

- AP

April 26, 10:50 a.m.: Relief organizations gear up to help, ask for donations 

As rescue efforts are underway in Kathmandu, government agencies, aid organizations and charities are mobilizing to send teams and relief to earthquake-stricken areas.

UNICEF said in a statement it's expecting children to be among the worst affected. Their first tasks will be to distribute medicines, nutrition supplies, water and hygiene supplies to children and families.  It is accepting donations through their website and by mail and text. UNICEF invites the public to test "Nepal" to 864233 to donate $10. 

The Red Cross will be working to provide first aid along with search and rescue and support to first responders. It said on its website that will be working with the Nepal Red Cross and the global Red Cross network to coordinate relief support. Donations are being accepted via the Red Cross' website

Google has launched a public person finder that can be used to look up or share information about missing people. It is useable via text from Nepal, India and the U.S.

AmeriCares, the humanitarian relief organization, has sent relief workers to the area, preparing medical aid and other forms of supplies for victims. They’re accepting donations via the web.

Direct Relief, an organization that provides medical assistance, be supporting local emergency response efforts. Direct Relief is collecting donations on its website.  

Charity fundraising website Global Giving will be partnering with community organizations to distribute relief. The donations will "help first responders meet survivors' immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter. Once initial relief work is complete, this fund will transition to support longer-term recovery efforts run by local, vetted local organizations." Options to send reoccurring donations are available via Global Giving's website

The Seva Foundation, an organization that works in Nepal to cure blindness, is also collecting donations for emergency relief efforts via its website

Public Radio International has a list of vetted charities sending relief to Nepal. 

- Brian De Los Santos

6:00 p.m.: Google exec among dead on Mt. Everest, local Nepalese professor loses relative in quake

Dan Fredinburg, an executive at Google, is among the more than 1,000 people reported dead following the destructive 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal, the company confirmed Saturday.

According to The Associated Press, Fredinburg was in Nepal with three other Google executives climbing Mount Everest. The tremor triggered an avalanche on earth's highest peak, killing at least 10 people. The remaining three Google employees survived.

Fredinburg was a self-described adventurer, helping to co-found Google Adventure in his spare time. He was also product manager and head of privacy at Google X, the company's secretive division responsible for Google's self-driving car, according to AP.

Over 1,100 people are reported to have died in the earthquake in Nepal, but that number is sure to increase as rescue efforts continue, said deputy Inspector General of Police Komal Singh Bam.

The United States pledged to send a USAID rescue team to Nepal and provide $1 million in recovery aid.

Here in California, the elite Task Force 2 rescue team was put on standby Saturday, according to NBC 4. 

"Everybody's grabbing their gear. (The notification) just means to stand by," Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Brian Jordan told NBC 4. "They have not been ordered to respond."

KPCC spoke to Deepak Shimkhada, adjunct professor at the Claremont School of Theology, about the devastating quake in his native Nepal.

Shimkhada says he was is in the process of writing a book on the art and culture of Kathmandu Valley, the area hardest hit by the earthquake. In fact, most of his research focuses on the Indic culture of the area.

"Now I can see much of what I wanted to study has now been lost," he told KPCC. "That's what makes me really, really sad."

Shimkhada says he found out through his Facebook feed that a distant, young relative died in the earthquake. Luckily, he was able to reach his brother and sister, who still live in the region, on cellular phone and found out they are "safe and sound."

— Miguel Contreras with contributions from Ashley Bailey

1:17 p.m.: Los Angeles man in Kathmandu recounts earthquake experience

The BBC on Saturday interviewed Rob Stiles of Los Angeles who was on holiday in Kathmandu, Nepal when the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the region.

He said living in earthquake-prone Southern California prepared him for the massive temblor, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives across southeast Asia, according to initial reports.

"When we felt the earthquake we jumped in the doorway of our hotel. We knew what to do, coming from California," Stiles told the BBC.

"There were people running out of our hotel. They just fell to the ground. A wall about eight feet high came down over the road — thankfully no one was crushed. Within 15 minutes there were four aftershocks..."It was the biggest earthquake I've ever been in. It felt like it went on for two minutes. Everyone here is just super-confused."

More than a dozen aftershocks hit the area, including a 6.6 quake, according to the USGS website.

— Miguel Contreras

1:08 p.m.:  Over 1,000 dead, history razed, Everest shaken 

Tens of thousands of people were spending the night in the open under a chilly and thunderous sky after a powerful earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, killing more than 1,180 people, collapsing modern houses and ancient temples and triggering a landslide on Mount Everest. Officials warned the death toll would rise as more reports came in from far-flung areas.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which originated outside the capital Kathmandu, was the worst tremor to hit the poor South Asian nation in over 80 years. It strong enough to be felt all across the northern part of neighboring India, Bangladesh, Tibet and Pakistan, where a total of 50 people died. The death toll in Nepal was 1,130, but was almost certain to rise, said deputy Inspector General of Police Komal Singh Bam.

As Nepal trembled, residents fled homes and buildings in panic. Walls tumbled, trees swayed, power lines came crashing down and large cracks opened up on streets and walls. Clouds of dust began to swirl all around.

Within hours of the quake, hospitals had filled up with hundreds of injured people. With organized relief and rescue largely absent, many were brought to hospitals by friends and relatives in motorized rickshaws, flatbed trucks and cars. Residents used their bare hands, crowbars and other tools to dig through rubble and rescue survivors.

More than two dozen aftershocks jolted the area after the first quake, which struck just before noon. At the time, Shrish Vaidya, who runs an advertising agency, was in his two-story house outside the capital Kathmandu with his parents.

"It is hard to describe. The house was shaking like crazy. We ran out and it seemed like the road was heaving up and down," Vaidya, 46, told The Associated Press. "I don't remember anything like this before. Even my parents can't remember anything this bad."

Once the first shaking stopped, Vaidya thought his family could return indoors by evening. But the jolts kept coming, and they felt safer outdoors.  

"It's cold and windy so we are all sitting in the car listening to the news on FM radio," he said. "The experts are saying it's still not safe to go back inside. No one can predict how big the nextaftershock will be."

So the family ate dinner outside with the headlights of their car providing light. Vaidya was grateful his wife and 10-year-old son were on holiday in the U.S.

In his largely affluent neighborhood of low-rise, sturdy homes in suburban Kathmandu the damage was relatively light. In other parts of the city where the buildings are older and poorly built people have not been as lucky.

Forecasts called for rain and thunder showers later Saturday and Sunday and the temperatures were in the mid-50s (14 Celsius), cold enough to make camping outside uncomfortable.

Thousands of people were spending the night at Tudikhel, a vast open ground in the middle of Kathmandu, just next to the old city that is lined with historic buildings and narrow lanes. Now it is in ruins.

People lay on plastic sheets or cardboard boxes, wrapped in blankets. Mothers kept their children warm; some lit fire with whatever wood they could find. Most were eating instant noodles and cookies.

Deepak Rauniar, a shop worker who was there with his friends, said: "We are too scared to go back to our apartment. It is surrounded closely by houses, most of them old. The houses could collapse while we are still sleeping."

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who was attending a summit in Jakarta, tried to rush back home but made it as far as Bangkok where his connecting flight to Kathmandu was canceled because the capital's international airport was shut down for commercial flights.

Nepalese authorities did allow Indian Air Force planes to bring in 43 tons of relief material, including tents and foods, and nearly 200 rescuers from India's National Disaster Response Force, India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said. The planes were returning to New Delhi with Indian nationals who were stranded in Kathmandu. India's state-run Air India announced that it would begin relief flights to the Nepalese capital Sunday.

While the extent of the damage and the scale of the disaster were yet to be known, the quake will likely put a huge strain on the resources of this poor country best known for Everest, the highest mountain in the world, and its rich Hindu culture. The economy of Nepal, a nation of 27.8 million people, relies heavily on tourism, principally trekking and Himalayan mountain climbing.

A mountaineering guide, Ang Tshering, said an avalanche swept the face of Mt. Everest after the earthquake, and government officials said at least 10 climbers were killed and 30 injured. Their nationalities were not immediately known.

Carsten Lillelund Pedersen, a Dane who is climbing the Everest with a Belgian, Jelle Veyt, said on his Facebook page that they were at Khumbu Icefall , a rugged area of collapsed ice and snow close to base camp at altitude 5,000 meters (16,500 feet), when the earthquake hit.

"Right now, it is pretty chaotic and we try to help those injured," Pedersen wrote in an email to Danish news agency Ritzau.

Norwegian climber Teodor Glomnes Johansen told a newspaper in Norway that people at base camp were working on saving lives.

"All those who are unharmed organize help with the rescue efforts. Men, women and Sherpas are working side by side. The job right now is to assist the doctors in the camp here," Glomnes Johansen told Norway's VG newspaper.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude of the quake at 7.8. It said the quake hit at 11:56 a.m. local time (0611 GMT) at Lamjung, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu. Its depth was only 11 kilometers (7 miles), the largest shallow quake since the 8.2 temblor off the coast of Chile on April 1, 2014.

The shallower the quake the more destructive power it carries.

A magnitude 7 quake is capable of widespread and heavy damage while an 8 magnitude quake can cause tremendous damage. This means Saturday's quake — with the same magnitude as the one that hit San Francisco in 1906 — was about 16 times more powerful than the 7.0 quake that devastated Haiti in 2010.

The quake occurred at the boundary between the two pieces, or plates, of Earth's crust, one of which supports India to the south and the other Eurasia to the north. The Indian plate is moving at 45 millimeters (1.7 inches) a year under the Eurasian plate, and this results in earthquakes once every 500 year on an average, said

Marin Clark, a geophysicist at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

So the quake was "definitely not a surprise," she said. Over millions of years, such quakes have led to the uplift of the Himalayas.

The power of the tremors brought down several buildings in the center of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples and towers.

Among them was the nine-story Dharahara Tower, one of Kathmandu's landmarks built by Nepal's royal rulers as a watchtower in the 1800s and a UNESCO-recognized historical monument. It was reduced to rubble and there were reports of people trapped underneath.

Hundreds of people buy tickets on weekends to go up to the viewing platform on the eighth story, but it was not clear how many were up there when the tower collapsed. Video footage showed people digging through the rubble of the tower, looking for survivors.

Nepal suffered its worst recorded earthquake in 1934, which measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.

— Binaj Gurubacharya and Muneeza Naqvi. Naqvi reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen and Seth Borenstein in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.

12:19 p.m.: US sending aid, disaster response team

The United States is sending a disaster response team and $1 million in aid to Nepal following a devastating earthquake that shook three countries.

The White House and Secretary of State John Kerry are offering condolences along with pledging the support.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake outside the capital Kathmandu killed more than 1,000 people in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. It also toppled buildings and triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest.

Kerry says in a statement that the United States stands with the people of Nepal and sends heartfelt sympathies.

He says USAID is preparing to deploy the disaster assistance response team and is activating an urban search and rescue team.

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan says the U.S. stands ready to provide further assistance in the region.

— The Associated Press

11:50 a.m.: Quake triggers avalanche on Everest, killing 10

An avalanche triggered by a massive earthquake in Nepal swept across Mount Everest on Saturday, killing at least 10 climbers and guides, slamming into a section of the mountaineering base camp, and leaving an unknown number of people injured and missing, officials said.

The avalanche struck between the Khumbu Icefall, a notoriously treacherous area of collapsed ice and snow, and the base camp where most climbing expeditions prepare to make their summit attempts, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

The avalanche plowed into a part of base camp, a sprawling village of climbers, guides and porters, flattening at least 30 tents, Tshering said. With communication very limited at Everest, it was not immediately clear how many of those injured and killed were at base camp, and how many were elsewhere on the mountain.

An official with Nepal's mountaineering department, Gyanendra Shrestha, said the bodies of 10 people had been recovered and an unknown number remained missing or injured. Their nationalities were unclear as climbers described chaotic attempts to treat the injured amid fears of more landslides and aftershocks that continue to rattle the region. Chinese media reported a Chinese climber and two Sherpa guides were among the dead.

Hundreds of climbers — ranging from some of the world's most experienced mountaineers to relative novices on high-priced, well-guided trips — make summit attempts on Everest every year. At times, when the weather is agreeable, dozens of people can reach the summit in a single day. But high winds, brutal cold, difficult terrain and massive avalanches can hit the mountain with no notice. Hundreds of people have died on the mountain over the years.

"Right now, it is pretty chaotic and we try to help those injured," Danish climber Carsten Lillelund Pedersen wrote in an email to Danish news agency Ritzau.

Norwegian climber Teodor Glomnes Johansen told a newspaper in Norway that people at base camp were working on saving lives.

"All those who are unharmed organize help with the rescue efforts. Men, women and Sherpas are working side by side. The job right now is to assist the doctors in the camp here," Glomnes Johansen told Norway's VG newspaper.

Carsten Lillelund Pedersen said that he and a Belgian companion were at the Khumbu Icefall, at an altitude of 5,000 meters (16,500 feet), when the earthquake hit.

He said a steady flow of people were fleeing the base camp for more secure areas down the mountain.

Local reports in China said an amateur team encountered an avalanche on the north slope of the mountains at an elevation of more than 7,000 meters (22,965 feet) and safely retreated to a lower camp.

The magnitude-7.8 quake struck around noon Saturday about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, almost one year after the deadliest avalanche on record hit Everest, killing 16 Sherpa guides on April 18, 2014.

The 2014 deaths occurred at the Icefall, where the edge of the slow-moving glacier is known to crack, cave and send huge chunks of ice tumbling without warning.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The numbers have skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 800 climbers during the 2013 spring season.

Following the 2014 disaster, guides accused Nepal's government of not doing enough for them despite making millions in permit fees from Western mountaineers who attempt to scale the Himalayan peaks. The guides protested by refusing to work on the mountain, leading to the cancellation of last year's climbing season.

— Tim Sullivan and Binaj Gurubacharya, The Associated Press. Sullivan reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writers Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, Didi Tang in Beijing and Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi contributed to this report.

10:00 a.m.: Hundreds reported killed in Nepal earthquake

Officials say a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in a densely populated area of Nepal has killed more than 1,100 people across a swath of four countries, with the death toll expected to keep climbing.

Authorities say the violently shaking earth collapsed houses, leveled centuries-old temples and triggered avalanches in the Himalayas, including Mount Everest, where at least eight bodies have been recovered and an unknown number are missing or injured.

Authorities say at least 688 people are confirmed dead in Nepal. Other deaths occurred in India, Tibet and Bangladesh. Two Chinese citizens died at the Nepal-China border.

Scores of people have been injured in the Himalayan country's worst temblor in over 80 years.

The quake was followed by a magnitude 6.6 aftershock and more are possible.

— The Associated Press

1:08 a.m.: Magnitude-7.8 quake hits Nepal

A strong magnitude-7.8 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said.

Dozens of people with injuries were being brought to the main hospital in central Kathmandu. There was no immediate estimate on fatalities.

Several buildings collapsed in the center of the capital, Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples, said resident Prachanda Sual.

He said he saw people running through the streets in panic. Ambulance sirens blared and government helicopters hovered overhead.

National radio warned people to stay outdoors and maintain calm because more aftershocks were feared. A 6.6-magnitude aftershock hit about an hour after the initial quake.

Old Kathmandu city is a warren of tightly packed, narrow lanes with poorly constructed homes piled on top of each other.

Nepal's Information Minister Minendra Rijal told India's NDTV station that there are reports of damage in and around Kathmandu but no immediate word on casualties.

He said rescue teams were on the scene.

The epicenter was 80 kilometers (49 mile) northwest of Kathmandu, he said. The Kathmandu Valley is densely populated with nearly 2.5 million, with the quality of buildings often poor.

An Associated Press reporter in Kathmandu said a wall in his compound collapsed and there was damage to nearby buildings.

The U.S. Geological Survey revised the magnitude from 7.5 to 7.9 and said the quake hit at 11:56 a.m. local time (0611 GMT) at Lamjung a shallow depth of 11 kilometers (7 miles).

Mohammad Shahab, a resident from Lahore, Pakistan, said he was sitting in his office when the earthquake rocked the city near the border with India.

He said the tremors continued for a while but now the situation was normal.

The sustained quake also was felt in India's capital of New Delhi. AP reporters in Indian cities of Lucknow in the north and Patna in the east also reported strong tremors.

Nepal suffered its worst recorded earthquake in 1934, which measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.

Binaj Gurubackarya and Muneeza Naqvi, The Associated Press. Naqvi reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

This story has been updated.