Officials said at least 1,170 people are known to have died in Nepal, making it the quake-prone Himalayan nation’s worst disaster in more than 80 years.
But the final toll from the 7.8 magnitude quake could be much higher, and dozens more people were reported killed in neighbouring India and China.
“The death toll has reached 1,170,” Nepal police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam told AFP, adding that rescue efforts were still underway.
I took these photos an hour apart. Was wandering when quake demolished temples before my eyes. Heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/RYtIZI4725
— Siobhan Heanue (@siobhanheanue) April 25, 2015
Everest base camp avalanche kills 10
An avalanche at Mount Everest base camp triggered by a massive earthquake killed at least 10 people on Saturday, including foreign climbers, a Nepalese official said.
“We don’t have the details yet, but 10 have been reported dead so far, including foreign climbers,” Gyanendra Kumar Shrestha from Nepal’s tourism department told AFP.
Officials said an avalanche had buried parts of Mount Everest’s base camp in Nepal where hundreds of mountaineers have gathered at the start of the annual climbing season.
“An avalanche from Mt. Pumori has hit the base camp, burying a part of it,” Gyanendra Kumar Shrestha, an official in Nepal’s tourism department, told AFP.
“We are trying to assess how many are injured. There might be over 1,000 people there right now, including foreign climbers and Nepalese supporting staff.”
AFP Nepal bureau chief Ammu Kannampilly, on an assignment to Everest, was among those caught up in the chaos and reported that snowfall meant it was impossible for helicopters to reach the area.
Two experienced mountaineers said that panic erupted at base camp which was full of climbing teams and had been “severely damaged”, while one said the quake triggered a “huge avalanche”.
US sending disaster response team to Nepal
The United States is sending a disaster response team to earthquake-hit Nepal and has authorized an initial $1 million to address immediate needs, the US Agency for International Development said Saturday.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that officials said killed nearly 900 people in Nepal and several dozen more in neighboring Bangladesh, China and India, a White House official said.
Initially, the US is sending a disaster assistance response response team, USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance chief Jeremy Konyndyk said on Twitter.
Konyndyk said $1 million has been authorized “to address immediate needs.”
— Historic tower collapses —
But the worst damage was reported in Kathmandu, where the historic nine-storey Dharahara tower, a major tourist attraction, was among the buildings to have been brought down.
At least a dozen bodies were taken away from the ruins of the 19th century tower, according to an AFP photographer who saw similar scenes of multiple casualties in other parts of the city.
While contact with Nepal was sporadic, a senior Nepalese diplomat warned that the final toll could run into many hundreds.
“We have received reports that there is a big loss of property and life in Nepal,” Krishna Prasad Dhakal, the deputy chief of mission at Nepal’s Embassy in New Delhi, told AFP.
“Possibly hundreds of people have died in various parts of the country, particularly in Kathmandu and Pokhara.”
At least 26 people were known to have died in India, including 17 in the eastern state of Bihar, while buildings in the capital New Delhi had to be evacuated.
The United States Geological Survey and India’s meteorological service said the shallow quake struck 77 kilometres (48 miles) northwest of Kathmandu at 0611 GMT, with walls crumbling and families racing outside their homes.
“The walls of houses have collapsed around me onto the road. All the families are outside in their yards huddled together,” an AFP reporter said in Kathmandu.
Another resident recounted scenes of panic and mayhem.
“Everything started shaking. Everything fell down. The walls around the main road have collapsed. The national stadium’s gates have collapsed,” Anupa Shrestha said.
The quake tore through the middle of highways in the capital and also caused damage to the country’s only international airport which was briefly closed.
Kari Cuelenaere, an official at the Dutch embassy, said the impact had swept the water out of a swimming pool at a Kathmandu hotel where Dutch national day was being celebrated.
“It was horrible, all of a sudden all the water came up out of the pool and drenched everyone, the children started screaming,” Cuelenaere told AFP. “Some parts of the city fell down, there was dust rising… There were many (rescue) helicopters.
Aftershock tremors could be felt more than two hours after the initial quake.
Initially measured at 7.5 magnitude, the quake was later adjusted to 7.8, with a depth of 15 kilometres, the USGS said. It hit 73 kilometres east of the tourist town of Pokhara.
– Tremors felt across region –
Witnesses and media reports said the tremors lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes.
“We are in the process of finding more information and are working to reach out to those affected, both at home and in Nepal,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.
The AFP office in Delhi was evacuated twice following the quake.
China’s official Xinhua news agency said that two people, including an 83-year-old woman, were killed in the Tibet region as a result of the quake.
The earthquake was also felt across large areas of Bangladesh, triggering panic in the capital Dhaka as people rushed out onto the streets.
In the garment manufacturing hub of Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, at least 50 workers were injured after the quake set off a stampede in a garment factory, according to the private Jamuna television.
The area has a history of earthquakes, with a 6.8 magnitude quake that hit eastern Nepal in August 1988 killing 721 people.
A magnitude 8.1 quake killed 10,700 people in Nepal and eastern India in 1934. -AFP