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article imageHundreds dead in Nepal quake, deadly avalanche on Everest

By Paavan Mathema (AFP)     Apr 25, 2015 in World

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed hundreds of people Saturday as it ripped through large parts of Nepal, toppling office blocks and towers in Kathmandu and triggering a deadly avalanche that hit Everest base camp.

Officials said at least 688 people are known to have died in Nepal but that the toll could be much higher, while more than two dozen people were also reported killed in neighbouring India, China and Bangladesh.

"Death toll has reached 688 so far across the country," home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal told reporters.

Map locating the epicenter of a massive quake that struck Nepal
Map locating the epicenter of a massive quake that struck Nepal
, Graphic/AFP

Emergency workers fanned out across the Himalayan nation to rescue those feared trapped under collapsed homes, buildings and other debris.

"Deaths have been reported from all regions except the far west. All our security personnel have been deployed to rescue and assist those in need," Nepal's national police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam told AFP.

Officials said 10 people were killed when an avalanche buried parts of Mount Everest's base camp in Nepal where hundreds of mountaineers have gathered at the start of the annual climbing season.

Officials said that at least 114 people are known to have died in Nepal but that the toll could be m...
Officials said that at least 114 people are known to have died in Nepal but that the toll could be many times higher, while casualties were also reported in neighbouring India and Bangladesh
Prakash Mathema, AFP

"We don't have the details yet, but 10 have been reported dead so far, including foreign climbers," Gyanendra Kumar Shrestha, an official in Nepal's tourism department, told AFP.

"An avalanche from Mt. Pumori has hit the base camp, burying a part of it," Shrestha said earlier.

"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.

Nepalese people walk past collapsed buildings at Lalitpur  on the outskirts of Kathmandu  on April 2...
Nepalese people walk past collapsed buildings at Lalitpur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 25, 2015
Prakash Mathema, AFP

Experienced mountaineers said panic erupted at base camp which had been "severely damaged", while one described the avalanche as "huge".

"Running for life from my tent. Unhurt. Many many people up the mountain," tweeted Romanian climber Alex Gavan from base camp.

- 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.

Nepalese rescue members gather at the collapsed Darahara Tower in Kathmandu  on April 25  2015
Nepalese rescue members gather at the collapsed Darahara Tower in Kathmandu, on April 25, 2015
Prakash Mathema, AFP

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.

"It was difficult to breath, but I slowly moved the debris. Someone then pulled me out. I don't know where my friends are," Dharmu Subedi, 36, who was standing outside the tower when it collapsed, said from a hospital bed.

While contact with Nepal was sporadic, a senior Nepalese diplomat warned that the final toll could run into many hundreds.

Indian bystanders look at a collapsed house following an earthquake  in Siliguri on April 25  2015
Indian bystanders look at a collapsed house following an earthquake, in Siliguri on April 25, 2015
Diptendu Dutta, AFP

"Possibly hundreds of people have died in various parts of the country, particularly in Kathmandu and Pokhara," Krishna Prasad Dhakal, the deputy chief of mission at Nepal's embassy in New Delhi, told AFP.

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.

While contact with Nepal was sporadic  a senior Nepalese diplomat warned that the final toll could r...
While contact with Nepal was sporadic, a senior Nepalese diplomat warned that the final toll could run into many hundreds
Prakash Mathema, AFP

"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, Anupa Shrestha, recounted scenes of panic and mayhem, saying "everything started shaking, everything fell down."

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.

Nepalese people walk past a collapsed army building in Kathmandu  on April 25  2015
Nepalese people walk past a collapsed army building in Kathmandu, on April 25, 2015
Prakash Mathema, AFP

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.

An Indian patient receives treatment at Siliguri Hospital following an earthquake on April 25  2015
An Indian patient receives treatment at Siliguri Hospital following an earthquake on April 25, 2015
Diptendu Dutta, AFP

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.

Witnesses and media reports said the tremors lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes.

- Tremors felt across region -

"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.

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.

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