India's death toll at 62; Bangladesh, Tibet also hit

RESCUERS continued to scour Indian villages and towns bordering Nepal as India's death toll from the powerful earthquake in the Himalayan nation reached 62, with nearly 260 injured.

Strong aftershocks were felt across northern India yesterday. Bihar was the worst-affected state, where more than 40 people were killed and 156 hurt.

A team from the Indian National Disaster Response Force evacuated 100 patients from the Darbanga Medical College after cracks appeared in the building.

"The situation is not like in Nepal, where people are trapped in rubble. (In Bihar) deaths occurred when some people jumped from the roof in panic. Walls fell and killed four to five people. We also saw heart-failure cases," Mr Anirudh Kumar, who is in charge of disaster management in the Bihar government, told The Straits Times.

In West Bengal, where at least three people were killed, 40 schoolchildren were injured after they panicked and tried to run down the stairs to get out of the school building, local reports said.

A strong aftershock yesterday forced Delhi and Kolkata to suspend metro services briefly.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who chaired a meeting yesterday on India's quake efforts, expressed solidarity with Nepal in his regular radio programme while taking note of the deaths and destruction in India.

"In India, too, people have lost their lives due to the earthquake in different states. Property has been destroyed, but the destruction in Nepal is devastating," he said.

"India is with Nepal in this hour of crisis... The first thing is to beef up rescue operations. Relief and rehabilitation operations will continue."

India has deployed 10 rescue teams and is using 13 military aircraft and also buses to evacuate hundreds of Indians in Nepal.

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told a briefing yesterday: "The primary task now is rescue."

Nepal's quake also caused casualties in Bangladesh and China.

In China's south-western Tibet region, 18 people were killed, more than 53 injured and 12,000 others evacuated, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The quake also toppled 1,191 houses, damaged roads and cut off telecommunications in two counties in Xigaze.

In Bangladesh, four people died, two of them from heart attacks, when the quake struck, The Daily Star reported.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg