At least 69 dead as strong quake rocks northwestern Nepal, and officials say toll expected to rise
Earthquake graphic

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A strong earthquake shook northwestern Nepal districts just before midnight Friday, and officials said at least 69 people were dead and dozens more injured as rescuers searched mountain villages.

Officials said early Saturday that the toll was expected to rise, noting that communications were cut off with many places.

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

The U.S. 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 Center said its epicenter was at Jajarkot, which is about 250 miles northeast of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

The quake killed at least 35 people in Rukum district, where numerous houses collapsed, police official Narvaraj Bhattarai said over the telephone. Thirty injured people already had been brought to the local hospital, Bhattarai said.

In neighboring Jajarkot district, 34 people were confirmed dead, government administration official Harish Chandra Sharma said.

He said security officials were working with villagers in the darkness to pull the dead and injured from fallen houses. But he added that reaching some spots was difficult because some of the trails were blocked by landslides triggered by the tremor and its aftershocks.

Earthquakes are common in mountainous Nepal. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015 killed some 9,000 people and damaged about 1 million structures.

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