Renu Fotedar (from Facebook)
Renu Fotedar (from Facebook)

Nepal quake akin to 20 a-bombs, one Australian dead

NEPAL has been hit by a number of earthquakes over the years, as you might expect given its proximity to Everest and the world's tallest mountain range created by the collision of two giant tectonic plates.

But this time, the devastation was much greater than usual, as the country fell victim to its biggest seismic event in 80 years.

The first problem was the power of the quake, coming in at magnitude 7.8, which one expert described as similar to having 20 thermonuclear hydrogen bombs - each many times greater than the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima - ripping through the Kathmandu Valley.

Second, the epicentre of the earthquake was only 40 miles to the north-west of the most highly populated part of Nepal, the capital city of Kathmandu.

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Further compounding the impact was the shallowness of the earthquake, at just 10 to 15km below ground, meaning that the shaking was felt much more strongly. Deeper quakes have more earth to absorb the shaking

The death toll in Nepal has now topped 4000, including one Australian.

The Melbourne mother of two Renu Fotedar was 49 years old.

She was last seen at the Everest base camp and trekking company Dreamers Destination has told the ABC that Ms Fotedar had been killed and the company was trying to return her body to Kathmandu.

Amateur video captured by drone camera shows the devastation of the quake:
 

There are suggestions the extraordinary loss of life in Nepal could increase to 5000, as local officials complain that morgues are almost entirely full.

The latest estimates put the number of injured at more than 7000.

Earthquakes are typically followed by a flurry of aftershocks, which tend to reduce in strength and frequency as time goes on. These can be felt hundreds of miles away.

One such aftershock occurred  just half an hour after the main earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.6, and more than 20 others have followed since.

The concern is that, although the magnitudes deteriorate, they can continue to inflict significant damage on buildings already weakened by previous activity.

 

Nepal is particularly susceptible to earthquakes because of its position at the junction of the two giant tectonic plates that push Everest and the rest of the Himalayan mountain range a few millimetres higher every year.

The upward climb of the world's highest mountain range is accompanied by numerous tremors as one giant slab of rock - the Indian tectonic plate - moves northwards at a rate of two inches a year, pressing up against another great slab - the Eurasian tectonic plate - in the process, which geologically speaking is very fast.

As the plates push against each other, friction generates stress and energy that builds until the earth's crust ruptures. It is this movement that triggered the quake.

However, although the quake has caused colossal damage, it could have been even worse. Most areas touched by the earthquake lie on solid bedrock, which to an extent limits the amount of shaking - with the exception of the Northern Plains, near the Nepalese border, where the surface sands and silts shook more than the solid rock elsewhere.

   

Nepal death toll jumps to 3218 after quake

NEPAL'S national disaster management division has raised the death toll to 3218 after the country's worst earthquake in 81 years.

Officials say 6,538 people have been injured.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says so far 830 Australians have been confirmed safe, but  there are reports around 350 Australians are still unaccounted for.

 

Nepal earthquake horror: A tsunami of snow and ice

A MASSIVE operation is under way to rescue dozens of survivors from Mount Everest after horrific tales came to light about the misery the earthquake-induced avalanche had inflicted on climbers attempting to scale the peak.

At least 17 people have now been confirmed dead after Saturday's avalanche swept through the rocky base camp village of nylon tents, where about 400 people were preparing to attempt the climb.

The survivors of the mountain's worst-ever disaster include a number of Britons, while Daniel Fredinburg, a senior American executive at the Google search engine, was among the dead.

The affected Britons include Alex Schneider and Sam Chappattee, both 28, who were on their honeymoon, as well as Daniel Mazur, a climbing expedition leader from Bristol.

Aerial images posted on the Facebook account of the former Nepalese Prime Minister, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, show the scale of destruction in Gorkha, a district in west Nepal that has reportedly been hit particularly hard.

The social media was awash with comments as many victims in the earthquake and associated avalanche updated friends and family on developments.

"A massive earthquake just hit Everest. Basecamp has been severely damaged. Our team is caught in camp 1. Please pray for everyone," Mr Mazur tweeted.

"Aftershock at 1pm! Horrible here in camp one. Avalanches on three sides. Camp one a tiny island. We worry about icefall team below..Alive?" Mr Mazur added later.

Newlyweds Alex and Sam told of their experiences in their joint blog: "The ground started shaking violently…We staggered out to see an avalanche coming straight at us. A blast of wind knocked us down but were able to get up and run to shelter behind some tents and anchor ourselves with axes."

Newlyweds Sam, left, and Alexandra, right, were caught up in the avalanche during their second attempt climbing Everest
Newlyweds Sam, left, and Alexandra, right, were caught up in the avalanche during their second attempt climbing Everest

Another Briton, 39-year old Nick Talbot, was attempting to be the first climber with cystic fibrosis to scale the mountain.

"This was like a tsunami. I saw this wall of snow and ice coming. I ran away. I thought, 'There is no chance I can get away'. I just had my socks on. It knocked me into the rocks. I got up and it knocked me over again," Mr Talbot told The New York Times.

Pemba Sherpa, a 43-year old Everest guide with the right side of his face bandaged, was surprised to have survived. One of the first group of survivors to be rescued, Mr Sherpa recalled how he was knocked unconscious by the avalanche.

"I heard a big noise and the next thing I know I was swept away by the snow. I must have been swept almost 200 metres…When I regained consciousness, I was in a tent surrounded by foreigners.

"I did not know what happened or where I was." People cremate the bodies of the victims of an earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal People cremate the bodies of the victims of an earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bhim Bahadur Khatri, 35, a cook for a climbing team said the quake hit when he was preparing a meal.

"I managed to dig out of what could easily have been my grave. I wriggled and used my hands as claws to dig as much as I could. I was suffocating. I could not breathe. I knew I had to survive," he said.

When he finally dug his way out, part of the base camp had been destroyed.

"I looked around and saw the tents all torn and crushed. Many people were injured. I had lived but lost many of my friends," Mr Khatri added. A Nepalese resident naps by the roadside in the aftermath of the earthquake

Twenty-two of the most seriously injured have been taken by helicopter in the village of Pheriche, the location of the nearest medical facility. But bad weather and communications were hampering more helicopter flights.

Tara Bradshaw, 24, from Brighton, 22-year old Sebastian Lovera from Tonbridge, Kent and Julia Carroll, also 22, were among the Briton's who survived the avalanche. James Grieve, 52, from Kinross in Fife was also among the British survivors.


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