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Massive new earthquake hits devastated Nepal

Prakash Mathema, AFP |Patients are carried out of a Kathmandu hospital building as a 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on May 12.

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit a remote part of Nepal Tuesday, killing at least 48 people and two people in neighbouring India. The latest quake came just weeks after an earlier earthquake killed more than 8,000.

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Information was slow to reach the capital, Kathmandu, from the epicentre near the eastern Nepali town west of Namche Bazaar, close to Mount Everest and the border with Tibet.

Tuesday’s quake came just weeks after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25, centred in western Nepal killed more than 8,000 people and devastated the impoverished, mountainous nation. The latest quake was deeper, however, coming from a depth of 18.5 kilometres (11.5 miles) versus the earlier one at 15 kilometres (9.3 miles). Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage.

Tremors from the quake could be felt as far away as northern India and Bangladesh. Buildings swayed in New Delhi, sending office workers scurrying on to the streets. Residents in the Indian town of Siliguri, near the border with Nepal, said chunks of concrete fell off one or two buildings.

Five people were killed in Indian states bordering Nepal -- one in Uttar Pradesh and four in Bihar, officials said, and Chinese media reported one person died in Tibet after rocks fell on a car.

‘When the earth shakes, every second feels like one minute’

Rescue helicopters were sent to mountainous districts northeast of Kathmandu, where landslides and buildings collapsed and several people were feared trapped under the rubble.

Emergency crews fanned out to search for survivors in the eastern Nepali town of Chautara, where several buildings collapsed. Chautara has become a hub for humanitarian aid after the April 25 quake.

The latest quake sparked panic in Kathmandu, where a number of buildings are structurally damaged from the disaster three weeks ago.

The quake was followed by at least half a dozen aftershocks, including one as big as 6.3.

Reporting from Kathmandu, FRANCE 24’s Constantin Simon said he was shooting with the crew when the quake struck.

“It was really strong, and lasted for around 30 seconds, one minute. It’s very difficult to tell you the exact duration because when the earth shakes, every second feels like one minute,” he said.

“There were a lot of people in the streets… What struck me was the panic movement. The Nepalese here are traumatised by the April 25th earthquake, and people started to shout, to run, to cry, to faint. I saw a lot of people fainting in front of my eyes.”

Parents could be seen clutching children tightly and hundreds of people were frantically trying to call relatives on their mobile phones. Shopkeepers closed their shops and the streets were jammed with people rushing to check on their families.

“I’m heading straight home,” said Bishal Rai, a man in his 20s, who said he was trying to contact his family in the north of Kathmandu.

‘Like being on a boat in rough seas’

"The shaking seemed to go on and on," Rose Foley, a UNICEF official based in Kathmandu, said after the latest quake. "It felt like being on a boat in rough seas."

Aid agencies were struggling to get reports from outside of the capital. "We're thinking about children across the country, and who are already suffering. This could make them even more vulnerable," Foley said.

Residents of the small town of Namche Bazaar, a well-known spot for high-altitude trekkers, said a couple of buildings damaged in the earlier earthquake collapsed Tuesday. However, there were no reports of deaths or injuries in the town.

Meanwhile, new landslides blocked mountain roads in the district of Gorkha, one of the most damaged regions after the April 25 quake.

"People are terribly scared. Everyone ran out in the streets because they are afraid of being inside the houses," Norwegian Red Cross Secretary-General Asne Havnelid told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

At Kathmandu's Norvic Hospital, patients and doctors rushed to the parking lot.

"I thought I was going to die this time," said Sulav Singh, who rushed with his daughter into a street in the suburban neighbourhood of Thapathali. "Things were just getting back to normal, and we get this one."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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