By Mrinmay Dey and Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - An earthquake in western Nepal killed at least six villagers, four of them children, as the tremor destroyed mud and brick houses in remote communities living in the foothills of the Himalayas.
The quake struck in the early hours of Wednesday when all families would have been at home and asleep. Its epicentre was located close to a national park in the sparsely populated Doti district, 430 km (270 miles) west of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.
Local television news channels showed rescuers clearing the rubble in the search for casualties and survivors, while women looked on, sitting in the open with babies wrapped in blankets to shield them from the cold.
Some 536 km (333 miles) to the southwest, residents of the Indian capital, New Delhi, were shaken awake by the power of the 5.6 magnitude tremblor.
Ram Upadhyay, chairman of the Purbi Chowki rural municipality in Doti, said he was in a nearby village when the quake struck at 2.12 am (2027 GMT).
"It shook terribly and I rushed out immediately," he said. "Now we are collecting details including the dead bodies,"
GRAPHIC - Strong earthquake hits Nepal
Five people were seriously injured, including two critically, as eight houses collapsed, said Bhola Bhatta, Doti's deputy superintendent of police. The critically injured were being taken to Kathmandu for treatment.
At least two persons reported missing earlier were rescued safely, Nepali army spokesperson Narayan Silwal said.
Nepal is still rebuilding after two major earthquakes in 2015 killed almost 9,000 people, destroyed whole towns and centuries-old temples, delivering a $6 billion blow to the economy.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who faces re-election later this month, offered condolences to bereaved families.
An army ground rescue team had rushed to the site, Silawal said, and two helicopters were on standby in nearby Surkhet and Nepalgunj towns.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measured the quake at magnitude 5.6 and said it occurred at a depth of around 15.7 km. Nepal's seismological centre put it at magnitude 6.6.
The quake was centred about 158 km northeast of Pilibhit, a populous city in the neighbouring Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. There were no reports of damage on the Indian side.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu and Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru; Writing by Shivam Patel; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Lincoln Feast & Simon Cameron-Moore)