Pope Francis is praying for the victims of a massive earthquake that shook Nepal and surrounding areas in Kathmandu Valley on Saturday morning, according to a report from Vatican Radio.
The earthquake measured a 7.9 on the Richter Scale and wreaked havoc on the densely populated area, where officials fear the death toll could surpass 1,000, and the number of injured could be more than 1,700, according to reports from BBC.
The epicenter of the quake was 80 km northwest of the country’s capital, Kathmandu, where the quake toppled a 100-year -old temple, split roads, and destroyed houses and buildings.
Tremors could be felt as far away as New Dehli in India, and aftershocks continued to shake the area for hours after the initial quake.
Vatican Radio spoke with Fr Pius Perumana, an aid worker from Caritas Nepal in Kathmandu, who said emergency workers were still searching for survivors in the city where many of the tightly-packed houses have collapsed.
“I managed to reach Kathmandu, though the roads were blocked…they are still searching for survivors. The reports are still coming in…The picture is not very clear,” he said.
The toppled Dharahara Tower is a national monument built in the 1800’s by Nepalese royalty. At least 50 people are feared trapped inside the collapsed structure, according to officials.
The quake is also reported to have caused avalanches in the Mount Everest region of the Himalayas at the peak of climbing season. At least 8 people were killed in the resulting avalanches, and more are still missing.
There are also reports of damages to the airport in Kathmandu, which could hinder initial relief efforts.
This is the second-worst earthquake in Nepal since 1934, when an 8.0 magnitude earthquake all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.