KATHMANDU, Nepal — A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal’s capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said.
Dozens of people with injuries were being brought to the main hospital in central Kathmandu. There was no immediate estimate on fatalities.
“There was a complete sense of panic and people ran out of their homes,” Yubaraj Ghimire, editor of the Annapurna Post said. “They sat on the streets for long holding each other … terrified.
Several buildings collapsed in the center of the capital, Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples. Sirens blared and government helicopters hovered overhead.
“I have heard of people going to the hospital with injuries, but the doctors were not there,” Post said. “The doctors were also panic-stricken and had left the buildings.”
National radio warned people to stay outdoors and maintain calm because more aftershocks were feared. A 6.6-magnitude aftershock hit about an hour after the initial quake.
Old Kathmandu city is a warren of tightly packed, narrow lanes with poorly constructed homes piled on top of each other.
Nepal’s Information Minister Minendra Rijal told India’s NDTV station that there are reports of damage in and around Kathmandu but no immediate word on casualties.
He said rescue teams were on the scene.
The epicenter was about 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu, he said. The Kathmandu Valley is densely populated with nearly 2.5 million, with the quality of buildings often poor.
An Associated Press reporter in Kathmandu said a wall in his compound collapsed and there was damage to nearby buildings.
The U.S. Geological Survey revised the magnitude from 7.5 to 7.9 and said the quake hit at 11:56 a.m. local time at Lamjung a shallow depth of 7 miles.
Mohammad Shahab, a resident from Lahore, Pakistan, said he was sitting in his office when the earthquake rocked the city near the border with India.
He said the tremors continued for a while but now the situation was normal.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed to sending relief supplies to Nepal. At least four people died in eastern India when the tremors triggered building collapse, according to local reports.
In addition, dozens of school children were injured in India’s West Bengal when part of school building collapsed.
The sustained quake also was felt in India’s capital of New Delhi. AP reporters in Indian cities of Lucknow in the north and Patna in the east also reported strong tremors.
Nepal suffered its worst recorded earthquake in 1934, which measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.
Rama Lakshimi reported from New Dehli. Associated Press reporters Binaj Gurubacharya, Muneeza Naqvi and Munir Ahmed contributed to this report.