UK

Nepal earthquake: Briton tells of narrow escape from death

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Media captionNepal earthquake survivor Tom Greensmith: "People are dying as we speak"

A British survivor of the earthquake in Nepal has spoken of his narrow escape from death, after returning to the UK.

Tom Greensmith, whose hotel in Kathmandu was destroyed, described how he crouched in a garden while the ground shook for more than a minute.

The 33-year-old, from Bath, said suffering there was "horrendous", with people in Nepal "dying as we speak".

The Foreign Office has said one Briton was among the victims. It is investigating reports another has died.

The victim - who had dual nationality and has not been named - had been living in Hong Kong, Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said.

The government is "urgently investigating" reports a further British national was killed at the Everest base camp.

More than 5,000 people died in Saturday's quake. The UN has said eight million people have been affected by the disaster, amid warnings the death toll could eventually double.

Image caption Tom Greensmith (second from right) with his family at Heathrow Airport

Speaking after landing at London's Heathrow airport, Mr Greensmith - who is believed to be the first Briton caught up in the earthquake to return to the UK - described the moment the quake struck.

He had been studying Buddhism in Nepal along with his girlfriend, Sharnon Mentor King, from New Zealand.

Mr Greensmith told how the pair left their hotel just 10 minutes before the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck, causing the hotel to collapse.

"We grabbed on to each other, reciting Buddhist mantras, as the ground shook. It seemed to go on and on", he said.

"We could hear the screams from a children's school as things were breaking and mirrors were coming down.

"Nothing's built well there, and you could hear buildings coming down."

'I'm alive, mum'

Mr Greensmith and Ms Mentor King lost all their luggage as their ground floor room at the hotel was buried under rubble.

They slept on a tennis court on the roof of the Hyatt Hotel, Kathmandu, before being given emergency documents by the British Embassy.

Family members got them on a flight to Guangzhou, China, from where they flew to London.

The couple had an emotional meeting at Heathrow with Mr Greensmith's parents, Peter and Pam, his brother Ben and sisters Hannah Jennings and Lucy Ager.

Image copyright Jessica Lea/DFID
Image caption UK search and rescue teams have begun searching parts of Nepal
Image copyright Jessica Lea/DFID
Image caption They are part of a 60-strong team of search and rescue responders and specialist rescue dogs

Pam Greensmith, who heard news of the earthquake while on holiday in Kent, spoke of her agonising wait for confirmation that her son was safe.

"I just kept thinking, 'oh please God, let him be breathing, let him be alive'," she said.

Mrs Greensmith said her legs "turned to jelly" when she received a voicemail from her son saying: "I'm alive, mum".

"I've been blessed with that and many mothers won't have been," she added.

'Real suffering'

Mr Greensmith said he had witnessed chaotic scenes in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and that he feared the death toll would increase significantly.

Kathmandu was "like a bomb site", he said, but added that the "real suffering" was in mountain areas.

"We spent some time there and it's totally cut off," he said. "Many, many are dying in the mountains, through lack of food and lack of water."

Reflecting on his own escape, Mr Greensmith added: "We didn't think about that until later in the day and then thought that it was a pretty close-run thing."

Image copyright Alison Trowsdale

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Earthquake Appeal has raised more than £19m in the UK - including £14m in public donations and £5m from the government, which matched the first £5m of public donations.

The UK has also pledged £15m to Nepal in aid.

An aid flight carrying 120 Britons has left Nepal destined for the UK, while the RAF said it was preparing to send Chinook helicopters to the stricken country.

Members of a 60-strong UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) team have also started searching for victims on the ground - including in remote parts of Nepal - with specialist rescue dogs.

The DEC, an umbrella organisation that brings together 13 British aid charities to deal with international crises, has launched a website and donation line.

The Queen and Prince of Wales have made separate undisclosed personal donations to the appeal and sent messages of support to Nepal.

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