More than 700 people across four countries have been killed after a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal causing massive damage in the capital.
Homes, businesses and landmarks were destroyed when the severe earthquake struck Kathmandu and the densely-populated surrounding areas at noon local time, officials said.
Officials confirmed that 758 people have died, with 181 people killed in the capital, as rescue teams continue to search for survivors who are feared to be trapped under the rubble. Home Ministry official Laxmi Dhakal warned the death toll is almost certain to rise.
The Kathmandu Valley is densely populated with nearly 2.5 million people, and the quality of buildings is often poor.
The US Geological Survey revised the magnitude from 7.5 to 7.9 but then lowered it to 7.8. It said the quake hit at 11.56am local time (6.11am GMT) at Lamjung. A magnitude seven quake is capable of widespread and heavy damage while an eight magnitude quake can cause tremendous damage.
Effects of the quake were felt hundreds of miles away in neighbouring countries with 20 killed in India, six in Tibet and two in Bangladesh. Two Chinese citizens died at the Nepal-China border.
The earthquake is also said to have triggered a massive avalanche on Mount Everest killing eight and injuring at least 30. Several groups of climbers were also said to be trapped at Base Camp which was severely damaged.
The avalanche apparently struck between the Khumbu Icefall, a rugged area of collapsed ice and snow, and the base camp where most climbing expeditions are, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
Tshering said details were unclear because communication between the base camp and the rest of the Everest region was intermittent.
Meanwhile in Kathmandu, panicked residents rushed into the streets as the tremor erupted with the impact felt hundreds of miles away in big swathes of northern India and even in Bangladesh.
Dozens of people were gathered in the car park of Kathmandu's Norvic International Hospital, where thin mattresses had been spread on the ground for patients rushed outside, some patients wearing hospital pyjamas, while doctors and nurses were treating people.
Government emergency workers are reportedly already on the scene in the most damaged areas while Save the Children teams on the ground are coordinating an emergency response.
Several buildings collapsed in the centre of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples and towers, said resident Prachanda Sual.
Among them was the Dharahara Tower, one of the city's landmarks built by Nepal's royal rulers in the 1800s and a Unesco-recognised historical monument.
There were reports of that a body was removed from the tower and a second lay further up the road after it was reduced to rubble. It was not immediately clear how many people were in the multi-storey tower when it collapsed.
This is Nepal's biggest earthquake since 1934 said NGRI seismologist RK Chadha. "Depending on the magnitude, this earthquake is classified as 'Great earthquake'. For such a magnitude, the aftershocks will continue to occur for the next 10-15 days (in the same region), though it will be small and intensity will go on decreasing," CSIR-National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) chief scientist Chadha said.
(credit: dailymailuk, reuters)
(photo: EPA, AP)