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Nepal earthquake: Newly-weds among Britons caught in disaster

Alex Schneider and Sam Chappatte Image copyright Alex Schneider and Sam Chappatte
Image caption Alex Schneider (l) and Sam Chappatte (r) were making their second attempt at Everest when they were caught up in the avalanche

A British couple on their honeymoon are among a number of Britons caught up in the Nepal earthquake and subsequent avalanches which hit the Everest area.

On their blog, Alex Schneider and Sam Chappatte, who are safe but cut off at a Mount Everest camp, described seeing an "avalanche coming straight" at them.

Other UK climbers have posted on social media about being stranded on Everest.

More than 2,000 people died in Saturday's earthquake, and a powerful aftershock was felt on Sunday.

The UK Foreign Office (FCO) has released an emergency number +44 (0) 207 008 0000 for British nationals needing assistance and advised Britons in the area to stay "in a place of safety".

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the British Embassy in Nepal was offering assistance to the authorities and Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK would do all it could to help.

There are an estimated 300,000 foreign tourists in the country, with several hundred of those on Mount Everest.

Image caption Foreign climbers and their Nepalese guides around Mount Everest have been affected by tremors and avalanches

The 7.8 magnitude quake struck an area of central Nepal between the capital, Kathmandu, and the city of Pokhara on Saturday morning, and there have been several aftershocks since.

A 6.7 magnitude tremor was felt on Sunday and more avalanches were reported near Mount Everest leaving many climbers and guides cut off from the devastated base camp.

'Tiny island'

The British newly-weds explained how they had been cut off from base camp: "We staggered out to see an avalanche coming straight at us.

"A blast of wind knocked us down but we were able to get up and run to shelter behind some tents and anchor ourselves with our axes."

Image copyright Lucy Elphinstone
Image caption Tom Elphinstone and his girlfriend Zara Carey were travelling in western Nepal when they were caught up in the earthquake

The earthquake struck in the midst of the spring season in Nepal, when most of the attempts to climb mountains in the region are made.

Tom Elphinstone, from Battersea, south London and his girlfriend Zara Carey, both 26, had been hiking the Annapurna circuit and were in Tansen in western Nepal when the earthquake hit.

Describing the scene in a text message to his family Mr Elphinstone said: "The whole building was moving like we were on a ship and bits of plasterwork were falling but it didn't collapse.

"We ran outside and the whole street was swaying.

"There was a second one today but we hardly felt it as we have now made it to Sikkim by bus."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Everest Base Camp was hit by an avalanche triggered by the earthquake

Daniel Mazur, an expedition leader from Bristol, tweeted on Sunday: "Aftershock @ 1pm! Horrible here in camp 1. Avalanches on 3 sides. C1 a tiny island. We worry about icefall team below.. Alive?"

Sean James, climbing the north ridge of Everest, has been posting updates on Instagram: "As we sleep on the ground in tents last night we could still feel the ground trembling constantly.

"We had a visit from British Army Everest team at breakfast who are wanting to pull back to Kathmandu and help the relief effort.

"South side Everest is truly dire so we are lucky on north side."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption There are fears expedition teams may be trapped on other peaks in the area

Gareth Douglas from Albrighton in Shropshire was in north base camp when the earthquake hit.

His father Steve said: "I spoke to him at about 04:30 BST. He's been very fortunate.

"They felt the earthquake very badly - there were massive rock falls all around them but because of the situation [of the camp] they escaped uninjured.

"However, they are not concerned about themselves. Gareth's major concern is what they can do to help - he's quite emotional and he says summeting has become irrelevant."

One of those stranded at camp one is 19-year-old Alex Staniforth from Chester.

According to his twitter account, currently being administered from the UK, he "is very worried for those at EBC [Everest Base Camp], is in shock and has described being scared for his life as the avalanche went through them."

Image caption It has been confirmed that 17 people have been killed on Mount Everest - the mountain's worst-ever tragedy

Sheffield-based adventure company Jagged Globe says it has eight teams in the Everest region. One of their climbers - American Google executive Dan Fredinburg - was killed in an avalanche and two other team members have non-life threatening injuries.

Managing director Simon Lowe said they had been in contact with seven teams but the remaining group, consisting of 13 people, might not be aware of the extent of the disaster.

A team of six British soldiers, who had been hoping to reach the summit at the beginning of May, have written on their Facebook page saying they are all safe at advanced base camp.

Fear of aftershocks

Helicopters have rescued seriously-injured climbers from base camp and later rescued a few climbers from camp one, further up the mountain.

The Nepalese government confirmed no climbers or trekkers were stranded in the Annapurna region in western Nepal.

Jacqueline Toal, 34, from Glasgow, who was feared missing in Kathmandu has now made contact with her family.

Her father, Philip Toal, said he she told him she has no power and has been warned to stay where she is due to fear of aftershocks.

Image copyright Barry Torrens
Image caption Barry Torrens, who is trekking in Nepal, was crossing a river when the earthquake struck

British charities are assembling disaster teams to join the Nepalese rescue effort. Experts from the UK travelled to the country overnight and will begin to assess the damage.

Cambridge and Nepal-based aid charity The Mountain Trust has been mounting a fundraising expedition up Everest.

A team of 25 Army Gurkhas and their guides were between base camp and camp one.

Charles Malcolm-Brown, charity chairman, said: "We found the team was all accounted for last night, but I'm still very concerned because they're at different locations and we've yet to hear whether they're going to continue the climb.

"One way of helping is running emergency health camps or it may be we simply pay for the cost of a bulldozer to re-open roads."

Trekker Barry Torrens, from Portrush in Northern Ireland, said his party were crossing a river outside Kathmandu when the earthquake struck.

"It was a very guttural shake underneath the feet, the top of the mountain started to fall down on to the highway - rocks and bricks and half the mountain started to come down into the river," he said.


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