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Powerful 7.3 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Nepal


Another strong earthquake shook Nepal today, adding to the devastation caused by the massive earthquake there two and a half weeks ago.


Also today, the U.S. military says one of its helicopters went missing during a mission to get tarps and rice to earthquake victims. It was carrying six Marines ant two Nepalese soldiers. So far there are no signs it crashed. Because it's now dark, flights looking for the helicopter have been suspended, and a Nepalese Army patrol is searching for it. There are about 300 U.S. troops in the country assisting with rescue and aid missions.

BLOCK: Today's earthquake came a day after the Nepalese Army said it didn't need any more foreign military support. The magnitude 7.3 quake brought down more buildings caused dozens more deaths and more than a thousand injuries. Earlier today, we reached freelance writer Donatella Lorch in Kathmandu. She told me she was eating lunch with her husband when the earthquake hit.

DONATELLA LORCH: We were on the top floor of a building in downtown central Kathmandu. And the table started moving, and I thought to myself, another aftershock. I'm not going to move. And then the table started shaking and sliding to each side, and then everyone in the restaurants got up, started screaming and running, and that's when the building started moving. And it swayed and it rolled from side to side. And we got up, but we couldn't balance ourselves. And to me, it seemed it lasted forever, but apparently it was only about 25 seconds.

BLOCK: Well, that 25 seconds can feel like an eternity.

LORCH: It certainly can. We ran downstairs after that to get away from the buildings. Hundreds - and later, thousands - of people were on the street, blocking the center of the roads as far away possible from the buildings. And everyone - you could see it. They were holding hands. They were hugging each other. They were running across the street and then meeting friends and just running into each other's arms. This is a very, very stressed-out city.

BLOCK: Did the sensation of this earthquake feel different than the one a couple of weeks ago? I mean, could you tell that the magnitude wasn't as strong? Was the shaking less pronounced?

LORCH: I was in two different locations. I was driving for the first earthquake, so I was in the car going down a steep hill. And it almost felt - first I thought I had a flat tire. Then I thought I hit the motorcyclist because he fell down next to me and slid down the road. And then the earth started moving up and down, and I couldn't control the car anymore. Because I was up on the fourth floor, you feel the - I think you feel the movement way more, so I couldn't really differentiate between the two. I know that on the third aftershock - so after the original earthquake - it was almost as bad as the original earthquake because instead of rolling, it went up and down, and you couldn't stay balanced on the ground.

BLOCK: Now, we've been seeing images over the last couple of weeks of people in Kathmandu sleeping out-of-doors - sleeping in the streets because they were afraid to go back into their homes. Are people still in the streets, or had they gone back to their homes and now some of those homes have also been destroyed?

LORCH: A lot of people went back to their homes. I slept out in our yard for the first two weeks. The people that were still living outside are those who had their houses destroyed. But a big chunk of the people that lived outdoors for the first two weeks are back indoors. I don't know whether they are tonight or not, but they were until this morning.

BLOCK: Donatella, you're there in the capital of Nepal in Kathmandu - any sense of what the situation is out in the countryside in remote areas?

LORCH: It is much, much worse in the countryside. Today's earthquake happened after days of heavy rain and thunderstorm, and the mountains have massive cracks from the original earthquakes. Villages that were already cut off from aid because they were landslided out from earthquake number one are now landslided out again. And all over there have been reports of many, many landslides throughout eastern Nepal. And it will be so much harder to bring aid. It's not feasible to bring in aid by dropping it by helicopter hamlet-by-hamlet. It doesn't work. You have to bring it on mule trains. You have to bring it in by truck. You have to bring it in by pickup because you need large amounts. And it's the - right now it's harvest season for wheat in the Nepali countryside. These are subsistence farmers, and they have not only no access to their clothes or their food that is inside their house, they don't have any access to their harvesting tools. So they can't even harvest their wheat. They desperately need help, and the big question is, how is the international community and the government in Nepal going to get it to them?

BLOCK: How do you deal with the anticipation of another earthquake - another strong quake like you had today hitting again?

LORCH: How do I deal with that anticipation? I dread it. I try not to think about it. You know, the more statistics you read, you either feel better, or you feel worse, depending which statistics you're reading. Another horrible thing about earthquakes is they're not like other natural disasters. You know that once the hurricane comes and leaves, it's not coming right back, or the typhoon or the cyclone. But here you're living every single moment not knowing. Is something bigger coming in five minutes or in 20 minutes or tomorrow? And you let your guard down like we did this morning.

BLOCK: Donatella Lorch is a former correspondent with The New York Times. She's now a freelance writer based in Kathmandu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.