KATHMANDU, Aug. 22, Reuter; The death toll from the most devastating earthquake to strike the India-Nepal border in more than half a century passed 900 on Monday, officials said.

Minister of State for Home (Interior) affairs Niranjan Thapa told a Kathmandu Press Conference 450. ‘Nepal is were known to have died in Sunday’s earthquake that measured a powerful 6.7 on the open-ended Richter scale,

“There may be many more,” he said.

“Offers of foreign aid would be most welcome,” he added, without giving details of what help was needed in the poor mountain kingdom where communications, transport and health facilities are poor.

In the North Indian State of Bihar, officials said at least 450 people died and towns near the frontier epicenter were divested.

As in Kathmandu, the officials said the toll would rise as rescue workers, hampered by monsoon rains that have lashed the region for nearly two months, dug beneath the rubble.

The Bihar officials said unofficial reports reaching Patna, the state capital, suggested at least 650 people were killed.

In Kathmandu, home ministry sources put the current death toll at 550.

Both governments ordered an all-out rescue operation, calling in the Army and Air Force helicopters to help.

Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi ordered a team of surgeons to Bihar, then went to Patna for talks with state leaders before flying to the devastated religion by helicopter.

Both houses of Parliament in New Delhi observed two minutes of silence in homage to the victims of the worst earthquake to hit the border region since 1934, when 11,000 people died.

Mild tremors were felt as far west as the Indian Capital New Delhi but most damage came in a 500mile (800 Km) belt from the historic city of Bhaktapur, near the Nepali Capital in the Kathmandu. Valley, to the Bangladesh port of Chittagong.

The quake killed seven people in Bhaktapur and damaged ancient houses with intricately carved woodwork for which the city is famous. The worst devastation was in the Himalayan foothills of southeastern Nepal and the Bihar plain below them.

Thapa said at least 130 peoples were killed in Sunsari and more than 70 in Dhankuta, close to Kharan where the British Army recruits Gurhka soldiers. No injuries were reported in Dharan.

In Bihar, 11 towns were badly hit. The highest total of deaths in one town reported by Monday evening was 86 but mounds of rubble remained to be searched, officials said.

Hundreds of causalities swarmed to overcrowded Bihar Hospitals which witnesses said were having difficulty coping with the influx.

Article extracted from this publication >> August 26, 1988