Authorities in Nepal said they are searching for survivors after a strong earthquake shook districts in the northwest of the country, killing at least 128 people and injuring dozens.
The death toll was expected to rise because communications were still cut off in many places, officials said on Saturday.
“The priority is to find the survivors and take them to hospital while we recover bodies of the deceased,” regional police chief Bhim Dhakal said.
Soldiers were clearing roads and mountain trails blocked by landslides triggered by Friday night’s earthquake. Helicopters flew in medical workers and medicines to the hospitals there.
Security forces on the ground were digging out the injured and dead from the rubble, police spokesperson Kuber Kadayat said.
At the regional hospital in the city of Nepalgunj, more than 100 beds were made available, and teams of doctors stood by to help the injured.
“I was fast asleep when all of a sudden it started shaking violently. I tried to run, but the whole house collapsed. I tried escaping, but half my body got buried in the debris,” said Bimal Kumar Karki, one of the first quake survivors brought to the regional hospital.
Rescue helicopters and small government and army planes able to land on the short mountain air strips were also used to ferry the wounded to Nepalgunj.
The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.6 and occurred at a depth of 17km (11 miles). Nepal’s National Earthquake Monitoring & Research Center said its epicentre was at Jajarkot, about 400km (250 miles) northeast of the capital, Kathmandu.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal flew to the area on a helicopter with a team of doctors. He brought seven injured people on his helicopter back to hospital, according to his office.
Security officials worked with villagers through the night in the darkness to pull the dead and injured from fallen houses.
The quake, which hit when many people were asleep in their homes, was felt in India’s capital, New Delhi, more than 800km (500 miles) away.