Massive Earthquake Strikes Nepal, Leaving Hundreds Dead Near Kathmandu

A massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal Saturday morning, shaking the capital of Kathmandu and leaving entire neighborhoods in piles of bricks and wood. At least 700 people are presumed dead, government officials said, and thousands more have been injured in the nation's capital and surrounding valley. The powerful earthquake also apparently triggered an avalanche at the Mount Everest base camp, killing at least eight climbers. (Update: The death toll has now risen to over 3,800, and more than 6,000 people are thought to be injured.)

In an update on Saturday, Nepalese government officials said more than 800 people are dead in Kathmandu, CNN reported. The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers continue to make their way through the rubble.

BBC News currently places the death count at 876 people, citing a national spokesperson. The spokesperson told BBC News that more than 1,700 people have been injured.

The earthquake was centered roughly 50 miles from Kathmandu, which is the largest city in the small yet populous South Asian nation of 27 million people. With the epicenter so close to the capital, the earthquake reportedly ripped through Kathmandu, leveling buildings and popular historic sites where tourists were out and about early on Saturday.

According to the United States Geological Survey, the exact location of the earthquake was 80 kilometers, or 49.7 miles, northeast of Kathmandu. The earthquake occurred between the India and Eurasia plates, following a thrust "faulting on or near the main frontal thrust" of the two subducting plates, the USGS said. The agency also documented 14 aftershocks in the region, some of which were powerful. The aftershocks ranged in magnitude from 4.5 to 6.6, sending more shock waves throughout the already devastated area.

A number of historic landmarks reportedly collapsed in Kathmandu, as the immense earthquake reduced them to piles of dust and rubble. One such landmark was the Dharahara tower, a historic site popular among tourists. The once grand tower, which had 200 steps to the top, has been reduced to its base.

According to Times of India, the tower was full of visitors when the earthquake struck Saturday. At least 180 bodies have been retrieved from the tower, Nepalese authorities said.

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The 7.9-magnitude earthquake could be felt across the South Asia region on Saturday, including at Mount Everest, which sits on the Nepal-China border. The earthquake triggered an avalanche there, killing at least eight people and trapping several teams of climbers at the base camps. Climbing news service Northmen PK confirmed via Twitter on Saturday that climbing teams at camp 1 and camp 2 were "safe but stuck" as the avalanche has blocked their path. Other teams on the mountain have reported whiteouts.

Residents of the state of West Bengal in India were also affected by the earthquake and its aftershocks. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said in a Facebook post on Saturday that three deaths have been confirmed in the state. About 50 injuries have also been reported. The state's northern region was the most affected.

"The earthquake has also caused extensive damages in Bengal," Banerjee said. "Survey is being carried out on war footing to assess extent of damages to buildings, bridges, roads, flyovers and other important infrastructure."

In Nepal, leaders have declared a state of emergency as hundreds of first responders continue their search for survivors trapped in mounds of rubble. Many unharmed residents remained outside on Saturday, fearful of returning under any structures.

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