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World

Nepal wracked by second major quake

Just as Nepal was beginning to recover from the devastating earthquake of two weeks ago, another massive shockwave has struck the country, causing death and destruction. Alys Francis reports from Kathmandu.

Rajesh Shibabhkti was four-stories high in an office building in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, when the floor started to pitch and buckle beneath his feet.

"I was holding against the partition," to stop from falling, Shibabhkti said. "Everybody was trying to run outside."

The city had just been rocked by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, which struck near Mount Everest, a little over two weeks after Nepal was devastated by an earthquake that killed more than 8,000 people and injured over 17,900.

"Having this twice in a lifetime, it was like I was facing death," Shibabhkti said, speaking from the front seat of his four-wheel drive where he's preparing to spend the night with his family. Like many in Kathmandu, he's too frightened to sleep indoors in case another aftershock hits.

Nepal has been struggling to recover from the first 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which affected 8 million people, destroyed historic sites and over half a million homes across the landlocked Himalayan country.

Today the strongest aftershock hit the region 76 kilometers (47 miles) northeast of Kathmandu near the town of Namche Bazaar, high up in the Himalayas, at 12:50 local time.

Erneutes Erdbeben in Nepal

Makeshift camps have sprung up all over Kathmandu...

Quick descent into chaos

Office workers fled from buildings and the streets rapidly filled with panicked people, motorbikes and cars. They ran for safety, many heading for Tundikhel park - the largest open space in the heart of Kathmandu, and a makeshift camp for those who lost their homes when the ground first buckled and swayed on April 25.

Across from the park, nurses and frightened relatives rushed patients injured in the first earthquake outside Bir government hospital, which had been partially damaged two weeks ago. They mingled at the entrance with those bringing in the newly wounded; one middle-aged woman came slumped between two men on a motorbike, her head lolling to the side. Another walked in leaning on a young man for support, her face streaked with blood.

The latest earthquake has killed at least 66 people and injured more than 1,250 at last count, with 32 of Nepal's 75 districts affected, according to Information and Communications Minister Minendra Rijal. It was followed by six aftershocks, magnitude 5 or higher.

The government swung into action in the aftermath of the temblor, dispatching military helicopters to assess the damage and provide emergency assistance, and deploying national search and rescue teams. By 5:30 p.m. some 11 people had been "rescued alive," said Rijal.

People refuse to go indoors

Still, reports of people buried under the rubble have come in from across the country with some buildings damaged in the previous earthquake collapsing and landslides reported in the Langtang region, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.

Erneutes Erdbeben in Nepal

...as people prepared to spend the night outdoors, fearing aftershocks

The government has put hospitals in affected areas on standby to treat the injured, while the Nepalese army has called for additional shelter from aid agencies for those whose homes have been newly damaged, and others simply too afraid to sleep indoors.

In Kathmandu, many are now bracing to spend the night out in the open again. All along the trash choked Bagmati River, people are building makeshift shelters, pitching tents and settling into cars and four-wheel drive vehicles.

Shibabhkti is among them. "When the last earthquake occurred we stayed outside for five days," he said. "I don't know how long we will stay here now."

A little way along from Shibabhkti, Maju Shrestha is helping stretch plastic sheets over bamboo poles, preparing to spend the night in a makeshift shelter with her husband, son and other relatives. She was asleep on the fourth floor of their apartment when the earthquake struck.

"The bed shook, everything was shaking, it was frightening," Shretha said. In her panic to get downstairs and outside to safety, the 51-year-old scraped her knee. "Of course now we're too afraid to stay indoors, so that's why we are here," she said.

It's the uncertainty that keeps them outside, as Shibabhkti puts it: "People are completely helpless… it's a natural disaster, we cannot predict it, or when it might happen again."

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