NEW DELHI — Seconds after a 7.3-magnitude aftershock rocked Nepal on Tuesday, Nepalis again rushed into the streets, crying, screaming, searching desperately for open ground — and their loved ones.
Politicians in parliament fled from their seats. In remote villages, houses that were already wobbling collapsed completely. Mountains cracked and slid.
The temblor was the largest jolt in the Himalayan nation since the devastating April 25 earthquake that claimed more than 8,000 lives and left more than half a million homes flattened or damaged. The death toll grimly rose throughout the day — to more than 50 combined in Nepal and northern India so far, authorities said.
With search-and-rescue efforts underway again, a U.S. Marine helicopter went missing Tuesday near Charikot, a town about 45 miles east of the capital, the U.S. military said. According to Army Maj. Dave Eastburn, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command, the UH-1Y “Huey” helicopter was carrying two Nepali soldiers and six U.S. Marines when it was declared missing while conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
Eastburn said personnel of the military’s Joint Task Force 505 were responding to the emergency.
In the capital, Kathmandu, residents streamed into the streets, clogging roads and overwhelming the country’s already weak mobile-phone network.
Many of them had just begun tentatively returning to their homes, but they vowed that they would be sleeping outside under trekking tents or in their cars again Tuesday night. Nepali police appealed on Twitter for residents to stay outside in the open but off the roads and off their telephones.
Overwhelmed hospitals would once again be treating patients — even the critically ill — outside in tents for fear of aftershocks. At Civil Service Hospital in Kathmandu, dozens of injured were being ferried in by friends and relatives on improvised stretchers, by motorcycle or in cars.
At Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Baburam Tamang, 40, a day laborer, writhed on the floor, crying. Both of his legs were badly fractured. He had been working to repair the roof of a house damaged in the April 25 earthquake when the second one hit, leaving him trapped under wood and bricks.
“Suddenly the quake came and I fell down from the second floor,” he said. “I thought . . . I may die there.”
He was quickly rescued by neighbors. They delivered him to Nepali soldiers, who brought him to the hospital.
“My future is gone,” Tamang said, weeping. “I may not be able to work again.”
The South Asian country of 28 million had been trying to recover after last month’s devastation. Shops and markets were starting to reopen, and electricity had been restored. Now the broadest relief effort in the country’s history has been stopped in its tracks.
Military rescue operations will run parallel with relief operations, according to Khagaraj Adhikari, Nepal’s minister of health and population. Many foreign rescue teams had already left the country, he said, but the Nepali government would ask those remaining to stay until the new crisis has passed.
That includes the urban search-and-rescue teams from both Fairfax County, Va., and the Los Angeles County Fire Department, who were in Nepal as part of a disaster-response team sent by the U.S. Agency for International Development. They were back at the rescue work Tuesday, along with some of the U.S. Marines and Army soldiers posted to Nepal to aid in assessing damage and delivering food and shelter kits. The United States has committed nearly $26 million in humanitarian assistance.
In recent days, rescue and aid workers had joined doctors, Red Cross responders and Nepali military and police to reach flattened villages in the mountains, where they were still searching for and cremating the dead.
Jennifer Hardy, 33, a worker for Catholic Relief Services based in Baltimore, said she was distributing tarpaulins and hygiene kits in a remote village in the heavily damaged Gorkha area when the quake hit just after lunchtime.
“People started immediately crying, even though we were in a big open area,” she said. She clutched an elderly grandmother for support, Hardy said, and around them, the leaves of mango trees began to fall like snow.
Things worsened when the villagers began to hear the collapsing of nearby buildings, then could not reach family members on jammed phone lines, Hardy said.
“That was almost more stressful than the earthquake itself,” she continued. “It was heartbreaking to see them so distressed. They kept crying and crying for hours.”
In Tuesday’s chaos, many aid workers were feared trapped. Nichola Jones, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Nepal, said a Canadian medical team was trapped in the Tatopani area, close to the quake’s epicenter.
Team members reported that a nearby mountain had dissolved into a rocky landslide, leaving them miraculously alive and covered in dust but essentially stranded.
“That’s going to be the challenge for us now, to get back to these remote areas where we had just been managing to reach in the last few days,” Jones said. The rainy season is fast approaching, and landslides will be a constant concern.
The U.S. Geological Survey said this latest earthquake struck Nepal early Tuesday afternoon about 11 miles southeast of Kodari, near the Nepal-China border. The reverberations were felt hundreds of miles away in New Delhi, Bangladesh and Tibet.
No foreign climbers remained on Mount Everest, after the April 25 quake had triggered an avalanche that plowed through the base camp and left at least 20 climbers dead. The spring climbing season had been called off, and most of the foreigners had been evacuated or had hiked down from camp. It was not clear how many of their sherpas, the Nepali mountain guides, or staff had remained behind.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said he spoke to some sherpas in high-altitude villages on the way to Mount Everest via satellite phone just minutes after the latest earthquake hit. The sherpas said their villages had been badly hit by the quake.
Pradeep Bashyal in Kathmandu and Xu Jing in Beijing contributed to this report.