Tremors were felt in the capital and in New Delhi in neighboring India. “People ran out of their homes,” the United Nations said in an update.
Poised on the seismically active Himalayas, where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, Nepal has a history of devastating earthquakes reaching back centuries. Almost 9,000 people were killed in a pair of earthquakes in 2015 that struck 50 miles outside of densely populated Kathmandu.
The country also suffers from poor infrastructure and winding roads, as well as shoddy buildings and endemic poverty in many of its districts. Some roads were reported blocked by landslides triggered by the earthquake, hampering relief efforts, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Footage of the aftermath shows entire homes reduced to rubble and rescue teams pulling survivors from the wreckage.
The two mountain districts of Jajarkot and Rukum West suffered the most severe damage, with 105 people killed in Jajarkot and 52 in Rukum West, a senior disaster management official told Reuters. Hundreds have been injured.
“The search and rescue team of Nepal Army have reached a few places,” Nepal Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Krishna Prasad Bhandari said early Saturday. “Roads are difficult, so it may take time to reach some places immediately.”
A police official in Jajarkot, Narendra Gautam, said in an interview Saturday that there was no cellphone network in the district and that electricity was also out in the affected areas.
“It is difficult to establish contact,” he said.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has mobilized all of the country’s security agencies and left Kathmandu by helicopter early Saturday to visit the region, according to the Himalayan Times, an English-language newspaper.
Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, said on social media that India was “ready to extend all possible assistance.”
Shih reported from New Delhi and Westfall from Washington.