More than 1,000 people have been killed after a major earthquake hit Nepal, toppling buildings in the capital, Kathmandu, and triggering avalanches in the Himalayas.
Nepalese police said the death toll in the Himalayan kingdom had risen to 1,130, while 34 fatalities were reported in northern India and one in Bangladesh.
Most of the Nepalese fatalities are from the Kathmandu Valley, where 634 people were reported to be dead, with at least 300 more in the capital.
Nepalese authorities earlier warned there were also likely to be significant casualties in the remote districts nearer the epicentre of the earthquake, 50 miles north-west of Kathmandu.
At least 13 people were killed on Everest after the quake triggered a massive avalanche. It trapped other climbers higher on the mountain while those in base camp ran for their lives to escape falling ice and rock.
Other base camps nearby are also thought to have been affected, possibly hit by major avalanches triggered by the tremor.
Thousands of people in Kathmandu are bedding down outside for the night, fearing further aftershocks.
In the old city of Patan, which adjoins southern Kathmandu, residents clutched blankets as they gathered in open areas and temple grounds.
“Everyone is scared of a repeat”, said Rabin Shakya, 29. “I rushed outside when I felt the earthquake. I was terrified. I’ve stayed outside all day.”
Shakya will spend the night in a local plant nursery along with about 200 other residents of Tapahita Nyadhal.
Laxmi Bhatacharja, 70, who was also planning to spend the night outdoor, said: “When the earthquake happened, I ran outside without my shoes. My heart was racing. I’m staying here outside. I’m too afraid to go back indoors.”
In the neighbouring community of Nyakha Chowk, about 1,500 residents assembled around a Buddhist temple for the night where dinner was being cooked in two giant pots for the whole community. “Everyone has made a donation,” said Vidho Ratna.
At least two ancient temples in the historic Patan Durbar Square have been completely destroyed. However, for the most part, Kathmandu has shown remarkable structural and communal resilience.
Subarna Khadka, 44, of New Baneshwor, was bathing when the first tremor struck. “I tried to come out hurriedly when I experienced the shake, but couldn’t come outside as the door was jammed,” he said. “I almost lost my hope of life, as I was trapped in the bathroom. But my wife rescued me once the shaking got quiet. I could only pray to god for life.”
Officials in India said 34 people had been killed in the country, with dozens more injured. More than 100 people were injured, as well as the one death, in Bangladesh.
The earthquake, which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale, sent tremors throughout much of south Asia at 11.41 Nepal local time on Saturday.
Within minutes, hundreds of people with injuries were being brought to the main hospital in central Kathmandu, with further reports of damage and injuries coming in from nearby towns and the city of Pokhara in the west of the country.
Jamie McGoldrick, the UN resident coordinator for Nepal, said: “It’s difficult to say the extent of the damage. A full-scale assessment is not yet complete, but this was a particularly large earthquake and a very shallow one so we are expecting high and significant damage, especially in Lamjung, Gorkha district [the epicentre of the earthquake]. There’s no doubt it’s a very big earthquake, but we are fortunate it was not in, or closer to Kathmandu, or the impact would have been catastrophic.”
Kathmandu’s Bhimsen tower, a popular tourist site, has collapsed, raising fears of significant loss of life. Two police officers at the 60-metre tower said up to 160 tickets had been issued to visitors at the time of the quake.
Sujata Thapa, 22, said: “I was passing by Dharhara [tower] when I felt a huge tremor of earthquake. I stood still. In a few seconds, I saw Dharhara falling down. People were screaming in pain.”
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and ill-equipped to deal with a major disaster. The country’s only international airport – in Kathmandu – was closed as the tremors continued.
People tried to shift piles of rubble with their bare hands in a bid to reach survivors. Most of the buildings that collapsed appeared to be older, weaker brick structures.
The quake brought scenes of panic. Hospitals reported hundreds of people seeking treatment for injuries from falling debris in the city.
National radio warned people to stay outdoors and maintain calm because more aftershocks were feared. A 6.6-magnitude aftershock hit about an hour after the initial quake. Smaller aftershocks continued to arrive every few minutes throughout much of early afternoon.
The Kathmandu valley is densely populated with nearly 2.5 million people and the quality of buildings is often poor.
Nepal suffered its worst recorded earthquake in 1934, which measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan, killing more than 8,500 people. It was hit by another deadly quake in 2011, when at least five people died.