At least 20 churches destroyed as Nepal earthquake kills over 150

Local church teams in remote Western Nepal are desperately trying to reach villages flattened by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on Nov. 3, 2023, that killed more than 150 people and left thousands without shelter.(Photo: GFA World)

(CP) Several churches collapsed in Nepal after a devastating earthquake of 6.4 magnitude struck remote western parts of the South Asian country last week, causing widespread destruction and over 150 fatalities, Christian groups have said.

The quake, which struck just before midnight local time on Nov. 3, primarily affected the Jajarkot and West Rukum districts, about 300 miles west of the capital, Kathmandu. Tremors were felt in distant cities, including Delhi in neighboring India, according to media reports.

Significant damage to religious structures has been reported by U.S.-based Christian international mission agencies GFA World and Barnabas Aid.

K.P. Yohannan, founder of GFA World, said in a statement that several partner churches in the quake-affected areas are "broken." The group reported that in one village alone, three church members were killed.

GFA World said its efforts were focused on mobilizing local church members for rescue and relief operations, providing essential supplies like food, blankets and tents to the thousands affected.

Due to the remote locations of many affected villages, inaccessible by regular vehicles, church workers have resorted to motorbikes to reach and assist these communities. GFA World estimates that up to 90% of the simple mud-and-brick dwellings in some areas have collapsed.

Barnabas Aid also described the critical situation facing Christians in the aftermath of the quake, saying that a partner on the ground estimates over 18,000 homes and at least 20 churches have been destroyed.

Tanka, a project partner in western Nepal, said severe food shortages and dire living conditions followed the loss of homes. The people are exposed to freezing temperatures, he added.

A local pastor, identified only as Judha, lost five family members — his daughter and four grandchildren — in the quake, according to Tanka.

The government's relief efforts do not extend to church reconstruction, leaving the Christian community urgently needing external assistance.

A Barnabas Aid worker, identified as Mahon, conveyed the gratitude of those receiving aid from international organizations in this time of crisis.

The local hospital in Jajarkot remains overwhelmed with the injured, prompting authorities to airlift some victims to Kathmandu for treatment.

Survivor Geethakumari Bista shared her harrowing experience with the BBC. Her family was buried under the debris of their collapsed house, leading to the tragic loss of her younger daughter while her elder daughter was rescued.

The search and rescue efforts are facing significant obstacles as landslides, set off by the earthquake, have blocked many roads, the BBC reports.

Following the initial quake on Nov. 3, three additional tremors were felt within an hour. Social media users and local media outlets have broadcasted images of the destruction, showing citizens desperately searching through debris and the remains of collapsed buildings.

In 2015, Nepal was struck by devastating earthquakes, which killed 9,000 people and injured 22,000 others. These seismic events profoundly impacted the country's infrastructure, with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reporting that over 800,000 houses, primarily in the western and central districts, were either destroyed or damaged.

© The Christian Post