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Residents terrified as second quake shakes disaster-zone Nepal

A major earthquake has hit a remote mountainous region of Nepal, 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 the 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 Organisation for Migration.

The quake caused landslides around Chautara, and more than 100 people had been injured in surrounding villages.

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.

Today's quake was deeper, however, coming from a depth of 18.5km versus the earlier one at 15km. Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage.

The quake was followed closely by at least six strong aftershocks, according to the US Geological Survey.

"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 50km from the epicentre and a well-known spot for high-altitude trekkers, said a couple of buildings damaged in the earlier earthquake collapsed after today'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. Experts said 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.

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 neighbourhood of Thapathali. "Things were just getting back to normal, and we get this one."

Nepalese have been terrified by dozens of aftershocks since the April 25 quake. The country has appealed for aid from foreign nations, as well as medical experts.