, KATHMANDU, Apr 26 – Powerful aftershocks rocked Nepal on Sunday, panicking survivors of a quake that killed more than 2,300 and triggering fresh avalanches at Everest base camp, as rescuers dug through rubble in the devastated capital Kathmandu.
Terrified residents, many forced to camp out in the capital after Saturday’s quake reduced buildings to rubble, were jolted by a 6.7-magnitude aftershock that compounded the worst disaster to hit the impoverished Himalayan nation in more than 80 years.
At overstretched hospitals, where medics were also treating patients in hastily erected tents, staff were forced to flee from buildings for fear of further collapses.
“Electricity has been cut off, communication systems are congested and hospitals are crowded and are running out of room for storing dead bodies,” Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke told AFP.
Climbers reported that the aftershock caused more avalanches at Mount Everest, just after helicopters airlifted to safety those injured when a wall of snow hit base camp on Saturday, killing at least 18 people.
The deadliest disaster in Everest’s history comes almost exactly a year after an avalanche killed 16 sherpa guides, forcing the season to be cancelled, and as around 800 mountaineers were gathered at the start of the new season.
AFP’s Nepal bureau chief Ammu Kannampilly, who was on assignment at base camp, reported that six helicopters had managed to reach the mountain on Sunday after the weather improved.
A stunning image captured by the agency’s South Asia photo chief Roberto Schmidt showed a massive cloud of snow and debris cascading onto base camp, burying scores of climbers and flattening tents.
“People being stretchered out as choppers land — half a dozen this morning,” Kannampilly said in a text message. “Weather clear, some snowfall.”
– Aid pours in –
Offers of help poured in from around the world, with the United States and European Union announcing they were sending in disaster response teams.
India flew out its stranded citizens in military planes while a 62-strong Chinese rescue team arrived with sniffer dogs.
Home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said the number known to have died in Nepal had risen to 2,263 while 5,838 people had been injured.
Officials in India said the toll there now stood at 60, while Chinese state media said 17 people had been killed in the Tibet region.