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New 7.3 magnitude quake rocks Nepal

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Posted at 6:02 AM, May 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-12 09:21:36-04

Latest developments:

– At least 36 people have died in Nepal and another 1,129 have suffered injuries due to the latest earthquake, said Nepalese Home Ministry Spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal. Three other deaths were reported in neighboring India, one official said.

– Many people in Kathmandu have brought tents and mats outside, evidently planning to sleep outside, journalist Bhrikuti Rai said.

– Rose Foley, a UNICEF official in Kathmandu, said she and others “dived under tables in the UNICEF building as it rocked from side to side.” After finally getting outside, Foley said, “Sitting out in the open it felt like I was on a boat on rough seas as aftershocks hit.”

(CNN) – A little more than two weeks after thousands died in a mammoth earthquake, Nepal got hit hard again on Tuesday — with another powerful tremor that has already left dozens more dead, more than 1,000 injured and questions about what’s next for the already traumatized Asian nation.

The fact that Nepal just endured a similar horror, not to mention waves of aftershocks that followed, didn’t diminish from Tuesday’s damage or shock. Some buildings that were damaged earlier collapsed, while locals scrambled for their lives knowing full well Mother Nature’s might.

“For the first seconds, it was complete silence. By the fifth second, everybody started to scream,” said Marc Sarrado, a 41-year-old documentarian from Spain who was in Nepal’s Nuwakot Valley, about two hours northwest of Kathmandu, when the quake hit.

“It was really, really intense. Even when the shaking stopped, people were still screaming. They were completely panicked, because they knew exactly what it was.”

Tuesday’s magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck at a depth of about 15 kilometers (9 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. For comparison’s sake, the magnitude-7.8 quake on April 25 — which killed more than 8,000 people — was more than three times bigger and 5.6 times stronger, in terms of energy released, according to the agency.

So, yes, it could have been worse. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous.

Nepalese Home Ministry Spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said that at least 36 people in his country, some of them in Kathmandu and the Dolakha district, had died as of late Tuesday afternoon. More than 1,125 had been counted as injured at that point.

The carnage wasn’t confined to Nepal. Three more people died in a wall collapse in India’s Bihar state, which borders Nepal, said Sunil Kumar, a senior disaster management official in that Indian state.

Indian Defense Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar tweeted that his country’s troops are involved in helping those injured, killed and otherwise impacted in Nepal, including flying some casualties from the village of Mrigu to Kathmandu by helicopter.

As bad as this latest nightmare has been, it’s not necessarily over. The fact such a big quake hit so soon after the one last month is proof that another one — perhaps bigger, perhaps smaller — could come at any time.

To drive home this point, residents in the region dealt with a number of powerful aftershocks, including one at magnitude 6.3 about a half hour after the initial quake.

Panic, followed by the new normal in Kathmandu

Once again, residents of Nepal’s capital and most populated city found themselves in the middle of a nightmare, in the middle of the day.

There were some key differences from the last time: The latest quake was centered east of, rather than west of, Kathmandu. It was a little further away, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Kathmandu in an area around the Chinese border. And, of course, it was a little less potent.

All the same, it produced terrifying, perilous moments in the Nepalese capital.

“(It was) like the whole Earth is alive,” said Asim Rai, who huddled with his family in Kathmandu. “We were holding each other tightly.”

Open space is often a precious commodity in Kathmandu, but especially on Tuesday. People have learned the hard way how a strong quake can topple buildings in seconds, crushing those underneath.

That’s why the city’s roads quickly clogged with people Tuesday, many of them crying, recalled Sajan Sharma.

CNN iReporter Prashup Rajbhandar was among those who rushed outside, fearing the latest earthquake may have cracked his house.

“People are very scared,” Rajbhandari said. “And they don’t know what is going on.”

Another resident of the capital, Mingma Sherpa, said he and his friends jumped out of his car when they felt the earth begin to tremble. They ran with crowds of other people desperately seeking open space in a congested area of Kathmandu where there are few.

The quake also caused a spasm of chaos at Kathmandu’s airport, where Channel NewsAsia reported Jack Board filmed hundreds of people running from the building as the ground rumbled.

But, despite the initial fury, that airport was operational by later in the afternoon.

In fact, Sarrado said that — once the initial shock subsided — most people in Kathmandu, at least, seemed to be composed.

“They know what it means by now,” he said. “Everybody is reacting very well … The Nepalese society has learned so fast to deal with an earthquake from an emotional point of view.”

A return of landslides, destruction and fear

While more people may have been affected in Kathmandu than anywhere else in the region, simply by virtue of its size, that doesn’t mean it was hit the hardest.

Sabin Shrestha, a social activist, saw people run toward the hills in a village on the capital’s outskirts as fresh cracks appeared in dozens of houses.

As happened late last month, the tremor set off landslides (and, where there is still snow, avalanches). A Canadian Red Cross team captured one frightening collapse of rocks near Dhunche, about 30 miles north of Kathmandu.

Landslides also occurred around Sindupalchowk, the district that suffered so much late last month. Anil Thapa, a journalist there, reported multiple houses down.

The villages and base camps around Mount Everest were also affected.

People in Lukla, a town that serves as a gateway to the Everest region, rushed to the airport so they could be in an open area as the earth shook again. Most of Lukla’s buildings are perched precariously on hilly ground.

Many houses are damaged, he said, and the hospital in Lukla was tending to the injured, including four high school students from the village of Chaurikharka. The students were carried on stretchers on the half-hour walk uphill to Lukla. The only way to access Chaurikharka and other Sherpa villages is by foot.

The airport is in a risky setting because of the short runway that’s surrounded by mountains.

But on Tuesday, Chungba Sherpa was glad to be there.

“People are here because there is open space,” he said by telephone. “They are very scared.”

Within a few hours of the main quake, tents dotted open spaces around Kathmandu and other communities — much like what happened in the days after April 25.

Bhrikuti Rai, a journalist, said she’s not sure if she’ll camp out in a Kathmandu park or in her house. She saw many people carrying tents and mats, planning to sleep outside.

“Just when people are thinking life is returning back to normal,” Rai said, “this has once again created fear.”