Will This Earthquake Surpass Nepal's Worst Ever?

Since a massive earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday, just outside the country's capital of Kathmandu, the figures have been constantly changing. At first, officials said 700 people had been killed; then 1,900; and now officials are reporting that over 4,000 people were killed in the earthquake in Nepal, India, and China. The quake is being called "the big one," the one geologists have long feared, since the country's deadliest earthquake yet in 1934. That event caused the death of about 8,000 people. So far, this week's disaster has a death toll of about half that number, but at the speed at which the tolls are growing, this terrible quake could surpass Nepal's worst ever.

According to The Associated Press, how much the death toll rises in the coming days depends heavily on whether rescue workers are able to aid mountain villages, which they have been struggling to reach since the quake. Aftershocks and landslides are complicating rescue efforts. Jeffrey Shannon, director of programs for Mercy Corps in Nepal, told The New York Times that most rescue workers simply don't know how many survivors there are, or how to reach them.

As people start to travel these roads, to reach these communities, you run into landslides. They’re simply inaccessible, the ones that need the most help.

In 1934, Nepal's worst earthquake ever measured magnitude 8.0. This weekend's quake was a 7.9 and left over 7,000 injured, according to current knowledge. The inaccessibility of remote areas means officials will not be able to get an accurate count of the damage and casualties until rescue workers can reach those locations closer to the epicenter of the quake.

The high number of injuries and inaccessibility of vital medical care is sure to raise the death toll, as is the probability of high numbers of injuries, deaths, and buried survivors in villages or on Mount Everest.

Cecilia Keizer, Oxfam's Nepal Director, told NBC News:

At the moment, all the death count reports are coming from Kathmandu Valley. Sadly, I fear that this is only the beginning.
Omar Havana/Getty Images News/Getty Images

One engineer from GeoHazards International, Hari Kumar, told The New York Times this earthquake is not the worst Nepal has to fear. There may a stronger quake in the future.

We were expecting an 8-magnitude to happen along the Himalayas, this is not it.

Perhaps the most shocking resemblance of this weekend's quake to the most fatal one in 1934 is its exact location. Not only was the 1934 event only slightly stronger than this one, but it destroyed many of the same areas. In both instances, large swaths of Kathmandu Valley were decimated. Massive international rescue efforts are rushing in to Nepal, and their work will be vital if this is not to become the country's most deadly earthquake ever.

Images: Getty Images