GAUHATI, India - A strong earthquake shook northeastern India and Nepal last night, killing at least 16 people, damaging buildings, and sending lawmakers in Nepal’s capital running into the streets.
The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.9, struck at 6:10 p.m. local time and was felt across northern and eastern India, including in the capital of New Delhi. It triggered at least two aftershocks of 6.1 and 5.3 magnitude, Indian seismologist R.S. Dattatreyan said.
At least five people in India’s Sikkim state were killed and more than 50 were injured, according to the state’s top official, Karma Gyatso. The state of West Bengal in north India reported four deaths, and Bihar state reported two. Nepal’s government said five people died and dozens were hurt there, including two men and a child who were killed when a brick wall toppled outside the British Embassy in Nepal’s capital, Katmandu.
The full extent of damage was not immediately known because the region is sparsely populated with many people living in remote areas that have been cut off by mudslides triggered by the quake, state police Chief Jasbir Singh said.
TV stations reported two major roads collapsed in the Sikkim capital of Gangtok, 42 miles southeast of the quake’s epicenter near the border with Nepal. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police said two of its buildings had collapsed in Gangtok.
Small army units fanned across the city of about 50,000 overnight to search for anyone trapped by fallen debris.
Power lines snapped in the West Bengal cities of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, which “are now in total darkness,’’ state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told the Press Trust of India.
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered to send troops, and called the National Disaster Management Authority for an emergency meeting.
In Katmandu, members of Parliament who were debating the national budget ran from the assembly hall into a parking area.