A powerful earthquake struck Nepal this morning, registering 7.9 on the Richter scale outside the capital city of Kathmandu according to the United States Geological Survey. Nepalese Ministry of Home Affairs say there has been “massive damage,” with death tolls at over 1,300 and rising.
"We need support from the various international agencies which are more knowledgeable and equipped to handle the kind of emergency we face now," Information Minister Minendra Rijal told the BBC.
Aftershocks were felt as far away as Pakistan, and the initial shock and its reverberations caused avalanches on nearby Mount Everest, where people fled the base camp and the fate of those already on the mountain is as yet unknown, though a person at the base camp was quoted by the New York Times as describing “many injured." Amongst those killed is Google executive Dan Fredinburg, whose family announced the death via his Instagram account, on which he had been documenting this most recent adventure prior to today's quake.
The quake is Nepal's worst in 81 years, and was particularly destructive because its epicenter was shallow and about 50 miles east of the country's second-largest city, Pokhara. Reuters reported that it left cracks in roads and destroyed a 19th century tower in Kathmandu.
It comes at the start of the spring hiking and climbing season, and Reuters reported that an army mountaineering team from India had found 18 bodies on Mount Everest, following an avalanche that crushed the base camp, where more than 1,000 climbers were preparing their treks.
Mohan Krishna Sapkota, a tourism official, said it was "hard to even assess what the death toll and the extent of damage" around Everest could be, according to Reuters. "The trekkers are scattered all around the base camp and some had even trekked further up. It is almost impossible to get in touch with anyone."
Google has launched a "person finder" tool, first used after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, to help locate people in Nepal. It can be used to either locate information about someone in the quake, or provide a place where aid agencies, for example, can update information about someone.