Nepal has been hit by another strong earthquake, causing widespread panic and casualties just over two weeks after a devastating one killed more than 8,000 people, injured 18,000 and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes.
The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.3 and struck 42 miles (68km) west of the town of Namche Bazaar, close to Mount Everest. It was followed closely by at least six strong aftershocks. Shockwaves were felt as far away as the Indian capital, Delhi, and Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
The full extent of casualties is unknown, with reports of collapsed buildings and some deaths coming in from remote areas close to the epicentre.
At least four people were killed in the town of Chautara in Sindhupalchok district, north of Kathmandu, after several buildings collapsed and more than a dozen were injured in landslides. Sindhupalchok suffered the heaviest death toll in last month’s quake.
Two deaths have been reported in Bhimeswhar, in Dolakha district. There are also concerns over a large glacial lake called Tso Rolpa in Dolakha that is held back by a fragile natural dam. The Nepalese home ministry described a disaster in both Dolakha and Sindhupalchok. At least one four-storey building in Kathmandu has collapsed.
As of 11am GMT, the home ministry said that across the country at least 19 people had been killed and 981 injured.
Five people were killed in Indian states bordering Nepal – one in Uttar Pradesh and four in Bihar, officials said. Chinese media reported one person died in Tibet after rocks fell on a car.
At least half a million Nepalese are already without homes and living in makeshift camps or among the ruins of their houses.
Tuesday’s quake came from a depth of 11.5 miles, deeper than the 9.3 miles of the quake on 25 April. Deeper earthquakes tend to cause less damage at the surface. At 7.3 magnitude, Tuesday’s quake was about a fifth as strong as April’s 7.8 quake.
In Lamosangu in Sindhulpalchok, witnesses described people “screaming and weeping as if the world was ending”. Krishna Lama and his five-year-old daughter ran from their camp. He said: “I could hardly hold my child it was shaking so much. My parents died in landslides last year. Now it seems it is our turn.”
In Gorkha district, the epicentre of last month’s earthquake, there were reports of limited damage. Jen Hardy, of Catholic Relief Services, which is distributing aid to remote villages in the district, said she saw two houses that had been badly damaged in the previous quake fall down.
“We are on a ridge and so got shaken pretty badly. It was quite strong and there was a lot of crying. People are very shaky. The mobile network is down and everyone is trying to reach loved ones. No one is staying anywhere near a building,” Hardy said.
In Kathmandu, parents could be seen clutching children tightly and hundreds of people were frantically trying to call relatives on their mobile phones. Shopkeepers closed their stores and the streets were jammed with people rushing to check on their families.
“I’m heading straight home,” said Bishal Rai, in his 20s, who said he was trying to contact his family in the north of the capital. “This is a really big one,” said Prakash Shilpakar, a shopowner who was trying to call his parents in nearby Bhaktapur, a town devastated in the 25 April quake.
There are fears of large numbers of death in regions closer to Everest, which lies in the north-east of the country.
The quake’s epicentre was close to Everest base camp, which was evacuated after an avalanche triggered by the 25 April quake killed 18 climbers. Mountaineering companies have called off their spring expeditions on the world’s tallest peak.
The latest disaster comes amid a humanitarian emergency in Nepal, with aid yet to reach many remote parts of the impoverished Himalayan nation after roads were wrecked by landslides.
The United Nations last week said it had received just $22m (£14m) of the $415m it has appealed for as it called for aid contributions to be “dramatically ramped up”. Rows were ongoing over the aid that had been sent, with western officials accusing the Nepalese government of trying to centralise its distribution, hampering efforts to reach those most in need.
Nepal’s government came under fire when it closed its only international airport because the runway was deteriorating under the arrival of so many large aircraft.
The search for survivors trapped in remote areas such as the Langtang valley was continuing as late as last week, with whole villages in that part of the country – which is popular with trekkers – wiped out in last month’s quake and aftershocks.
More than three-quarters of the buildings in Kathmandu have already been judged uninhabitable or unsafe, according to a survey carried out at the beginning of May, with tens of thousands of people living under tarpaulins on open ground.