UK

Nepal earthquake: UK humanitarian experts to begin mission

Durbar Square Image copyright EPA
Image caption Some buildings in Kathmandu's Durbar Square have collapsed

Humanitarian experts from the UK will begin to assess the damage caused by an earthquake in Nepal after travelling to the country overnight.

The eight-strong team, which includes experts in search and rescue, will also help the Nepalese authorities respond to Saturday's earthquake.

The 7.8 magnitude quake struck just before midday local time and is thought to have killed more than 1,800 people.

A number of Britons are thought to have been caught up in the earthquake.

A spokeswoman for Intrepid, which arranges treks in Nepal and around the Everest region, said it had some groups which included Britons in the area, and was in the process of trying to contact them.

Mountaineering officials say at least 17 people are now known to have been killed on Mount Everest by avalanches triggered by the earthquake - the mountain's worst ever disaster. Another 61 people are said to have been injured.

British charities are assembling disaster teams to join the Nepalese rescue effort.

Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children, the British Red Cross and Plan International UK have all confirmed they are assessing the humanitarian need in the disaster struck area.

Prime Minister David Cameron had said the UK would do all it could to help in the aftermath of the earthquake.

The latest home ministry figures say 1,805 people were killed and 4,718 people were injured.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: "The absolute priority must be to reach people who are trapped and injured, and provide shelter and protection to those who have lost their homes.

"Nepal needs our urgent humanitarian assistance."

Tom Trevelyan, a British tourist in Kathmandu, says he was in the centre of the old city when the quake struck.

He said he "just saw a plume of dust in front of me as two of the big temples collapsed".

He added: "It was just locals and us and any sort of other tourists jumping in and trying to dig people up and help pull people out."

Image copyright AP
Image caption International Development Secretary Justine Greening said Nepal needed 'urgent' help

The Foreign Office has offered assistance to local authorities and advised British nationals in the area to stay "in a place of safety".

The majority of fatalities were reported in Nepal, but there have been deaths in India, Tibet, Bangladesh and at the Nepal-China border.

Mr Cameron tweeted: "Shocking news about the earthquake in Nepal - the UK will do all we can to help those caught up in it."

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the British Embassy in Nepal is offering assistance to the authorities and is providing consular assistance to British nationals.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has released an emergency number +44 (0) 207 008 0000 for British nationals needing consular assistance to call.

Labour leader Ed Miliband also expressed his sympathy, tweeting: "The awful scenes in Nepal are heartbreaking."

Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg said his heart went out to "all the people of Nepal".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Survivors have been pulled from the rubble left by destroyed buildings

The British Red Cross already had an "earthquake preparedness project" in place in anticipation of a major quake, and Christian Aid has made an initial £50,000 available to help victims.

Tanya Barron, CEO of Plan International UK, who is in eastern Nepal on a scheduled visit, said she had been on the top floor of a building when it started to "shake violently".

She added: "It was very scary. Our colleagues advised us that the quake felt much stronger than usual.

"There are crowds of people on the streets here and the hospitals are already overwhelmed."

Oxfam also has teams in Nepal already assessing the humanitarian need and a team of technical experts will fly from the UK with supplies to provide clean water, sanitation and emergency food supplies.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Joseph Feeney and Calum Henderson are on a trekking holiday in Nepal

Members of British-based Search and Rescue Assistance in Disasters, a charity specialising in rescuing people trapped in collapsed buildings, are also heading to Nepal.

Its crew will be taking 1.5 tonnes of equipment, including sound and vibration detectors, search cameras and cutting devices.

Among those caught up in the disaster are two Scottish 21-year-olds, Joseph Feeney from Blarhill, Coatbridge and Calum Henderson from Edinburgh.

Both are students at Aberdeen University and were en-route to Annapurna base camp on a trekking holiday when the earthquake hit.

They have contacted their parents to say they are safe, but currently stranded.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many people have been left homeless by the earthquake

About an hour after the initial quake, a magnitude 6.6 aftershock hit, and smaller aftershocks could be felt through the region for hours.

A senior mountaineering guide, Ang Tshering, said an avalanche swept the face of Mount Everest after the earthquake and government officials said at least 30 people were injured.

Gyanendra Shretha, an official with Nepal's mountaineering department, said the bodies of eight people had been recovered and an unknown number remain missing or injured.

Image copyright ALAMY/EPA
Image caption Kathmandu's landmark Dharahara tower before and after the earthquake

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