Bishop Paul Simick describes how he ran for his life as the 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday

Nepal’s Catholic bishop has given a graphic account of the country’s catastrophic earthquake, describing how he was lucky to survive.

Bishop Paul Simick said he “saw houses falling like a pack of cards,” and that people “were running in all directions to save their lives.”

In a message to charity Aid to the Church in Need, the bishop added: “It was a very, very frightening scene – I myself had to literally run to save my life.”

The bishop, who is based in the capital, Kathmandu, continued: “Repetitive aftershocks – just now there was one [and] I had to run away from my office – have made people frightened so they have left their houses and pitched tarpaulin tents on the streets and open fields.

“I saw animals killed by falling cow sheds and stone walls. I saw the dry landslides after the shake all over the hills where I was.”

The bishop described the devastating impact of the earthquake on Nepal’s small Catholic community numbering just 10,000 faithful. “Here in Kathmandu city, many Catholic families have cracks in their houses or major damage,” he said.

Bishop Simick stressed the problems of trying to assess the situation on the ground, describing the crippling impact of communications breakdown – impassable roads, no domestic flights and entire communities still cut off. “I would also like to request your prayer support for the victims’ families who have lost loved ones, those who are still missing loved ones and those who are seriously injured,” he said.

More than 5,000 people were killed, more than 10,000 were injured and a million people have been left homeless by Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake. The death toll was expected to rise as rescue teams could not reach hundreds of remote villages flattened by the earthquake in the nation situated in the lap of the Himalayas.

Meanwhile, in Britain, Cafod, the official Catholic aid agency for England and Wales, has thanked the public for a “phenomenal” response to a call for donations to aid the relief effort. £19 million has been donated so far to the appeal set up by the Disasters and Emergency committee. To donate to the appeal, visit the Cafod website.