KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) – A major earthquake hit a remote mountainous region of Nepal on Tuesday, killing at least four people, triggering landslides and toppling buildings less than three weeks after the country was ravaged by its worst quake in decades.
Rescue helicopters were immediately sent to districts northeast of the capital of Kathmandu that Nepal believes were hardest hit by the magnitude 7.3 quake.
The government was having trouble contacting people in the area, Home Ministry spokesman Laxmi Dhakal said, but initial reports suggested there was damage in Sindhupalchowk and Dolkha districts.
Several buildings collapsed in Sindhulpalchowk’s town of Chautara, with at least four people killed, according to Paul Dillon, a spokesman with the International Organization for Migration. A rescue team was out searching through the wreckage of the little town, he said.
The quake caused landslides around Chautara, and more than 100 people had been injured in surrounding villages, chief district officer Krishna Gyawali said.
Chautara has become a hub for humanitarian aid after the 7.8-magnitude quake on April 25 that killed more than 8,150 people and injured more than 17,860 as it flattened mountain villages and destroyed buildings. It was Nepal’s worst recorded earthquake since 1934.
Tuesday’s quake was deeper, however, coming from a depth of 18.5 kilometers (11.5 miles) versus the earlier one at 15 kilometers (9.3 miles). Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage.
The Tuesday quake was followed closely by at least six strong aftershocks, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The international airport in Kathmandu, which has become a transport hub for international aid, was closed temporarily on Tuesday, while traffic snarled in the streets of Kathmandu.
“The shaking seemed to go on and on,” said Rose Foley, a UNICEF official based in Kathmandu. “It felt like being on a boat in rough seas.”
Aid agencies were struggling to get reports from outside of the capital.
“We’re thinking about children across the country, and who are already suffering. This could make them even more vulnerable,” Foley said.
Residents of the small town of Namche Bazaar, about 50 kilometers (35 miles) from the epicenter and a well-known spot for high-altitude trekkers, said a couple buildings damaged in the earlier earthquake collapsed after Tuesday’s quake.
However, there were no reports there of deaths or injuries in the town.
Indian Embassy spokesman Abhay Kumar said some buildings in Kathmandu collapsed, but he gave no further details about how many or where they were. Experts say the April 25 quake caused extensive structural damage even in buildings that did not topple, and that many could be in danger of future collapse.
“People are terribly scared. Everyone ran out in the streets because they are afraid of being inside the houses,” Norwegian Red Cross Secretary-General Asne Havnelid told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
At Kathmandu’s Norvic Hospital, patients and doctors rushed to the parking lot.
“I thought I was going to die this time,” said Sulav Singh, who rushed with his daughter into the street in the suburban neighborhood of Thapathali. “Things were just getting back to normal, and we get this one.”
Nepalese have been terrified by dozens of aftershocks that followed the April 25 quake. The impoverished country has appealed for billions of dollars in aid from foreign nations, as well as medical experts to treat the wounded and helicopters to ferry food and temporary shelters to hundreds of thousands left homeless amid unseasonal rains.
After Tuesday’s quake, Dillon said he saw a man in Kathmandu who had clearly run from the shower with shampoo covering his head. “He was sitting on the ground, crying,” he said.
Across the Nepalese border in Tibet’s Jilong and Zhangmu regions, the earth shook strongly. Tremors were also felt slightly in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.
“Rocks fell from the mountains,” Jilong county government vice chief Wang Wenxiang was quoted as saying by China News Service. “There might be some houses collapsed or damaged. We are now checking on the condition of the people.”
Associated Press writers Katy Daigle and Tim Sullivan in New Delhi, Ian Mader from Beijing and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.