KATHMANDU: The overall death toll from a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated large parts of Nepal has passed 2,000, officials in the Himalayan nation and neighboring countries said on Sunday.
No Filipinos were among the dead, the Department of Foreign Affairs said also on Sunday.
The number of those known to have died in Nepal had risen to 1,953, according to the country’s police spokesman Kamal Singh Ban, while 53 others have died in related Indian quakes, officials in India said.
The quake’s epicenter has been reported at between Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Chinese state media said 17 people had been killed in the Tibet region.
Rescuers searched frantically also on Sunday for survivors, digging through rubble in the devastated capital Kathmandu and airlifting victims of an avalanche at Everest base camp.
Terrified residents of the capital were woken by fresh aftershocks in the worst disaster to hit the poor Himalayan nation in more than 80 years, with many forced to spend the night trying to sleep out on the streets and open ground in makeshift tents.
Hospitals were so stretched that medics had set up tents outside the buildings to treat patients.
The historic nine-story Dharahara tower, a major tourist attraction, was among the buildings brought down, with at least a dozen bodies being taken away from the ruins of the 19th-century tower.
Offers of help poured in from governments around the world, with the Philippines, the United States and the European Union announcing they were sending in disaster response teams.
PH rescue team
The Philippine Embassy in New Delhi will be sending a team to Nepal to assist Filipinos affected by the earthquake.
In a text message, Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said no Filipinos were injured in the quake.
Even the two Filipino mountaineers who were at Everest base camp, which was reportedly “flattened” by avalanches that killed 17 people, are safe, Jose added.
There are fewer than 200 Filipinos in Nepal, according to records of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The two Filipino mountaineers–Jessica Ann Nicole Ramirez and Jose Francisco Oracion–were at the base camp for vacation.
They checked in at the Khwopa Guest House in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, but are now in Durbar Square for safety, Jose said.
“Will try to get them to airport and/or consulate,” he added in his text message.
Streets and squares in the capital of more than one million people are covered in rubble, and rescuers found more bodies than survivors.
India flew out its stranded citizens in military planes.
“Helicopters have been sent to remote areas. We are sifting through the rubble where buildings have collapsed to see if we can find anyone,” Ban added.
17 Everest climbers dead
Officials said 17 people were so far known to have died on Mount Everest where an avalanche triggered by the earthquake buried part of base camp.
It is the deadliest disaster in Everest’s history and comes almost exactly a year after an avalanche killed 16 sherpa guides.
AFP’s Nepal bureau chief Ammu Kannampilly, on an assignment at base camp, reported that six helicopters had managed to reach the mountain on Sunday morning after the weather had improved overnight.
“People being stretchered out as choppers land–half a dozen this morning,” Kannampilly said in a text message.
“Weather clear, some snowfall.”
The overall toll was expected to be much higher, and at least 47 people have died in neighboring India.
“We are using all our resources for rescue and to help the displaced,” Rameshwor Dangal, who heads Nepal’s Himalayan nation’s National Disaster Management Division, also told Agence France-Presse.
Chinese state media said 17 people had also been killed in Tibet as Beijing sent a team of 62 rescuers, accompanied by sniffer dogs, to help hard-pressed emergency workers in Nepal.
The county’s cell phone network was working only sporadically, while large parts of the capital were without electricity.
AFP correspondents in Kathmandu reported that tremors were felt throughout the night, including one strong aftershock at dawn.
“It has been a sleepless night, how can we sleep? It has been shaking all night. We are just praying that this will end and we can return home,” said Nina Shrestha, a 34-year-old banker who spent the night with hundreds of people on open ground in the capital’s Tudhikhel district.
As rescuers sifted through the huge mounds of rubble, the hospitals were overflowing with victims who suffered multiple fractures and trauma.
“We have treated many people since yesterday, majority children,” said Samir, a doctor at Nepal’s Annapurna Neurological Hospital.
“Most patients have head injuries or fractures. Two of our patients died, two are critical.”
Acharya said medics were working out of a tent set up in a parking lot because of overflowing patients, while some patients were too scared to stay in the building.
Families had grabbed whatever possessions they could muster and sought shelter on the streets, many of which had been split asunder.
Weather forecasters warned that rain was on the way, with dark clouds looming over Kathmandu that promised more misery for displaced survivors.
‘Huge’ Everest disaster
Snowfalls on Saturday had thwarted efforts to airlift survivors from Everest base camp, where hundreds of mountaineers were gathered at the start of the annual climbing season, canceled last year after the deaths of the 16 sherpa guides.
Google executive Dan Fredinburg was the only climber killed to have been identified so far.
Experienced mountaineers said panic erupted at base camp, which has been “severely damaged” while one described the avalanche as “huge.”
“Seventeen have been reported dead so far and 61 are injured,” said Tulsi Gautam of Nepal’s tourism department, which issues permits to climb the world’s tallest mountain.
“Those who are able are walking down. Others are being airlifted.”
Kannampilly, who was injured in Saturday’s disaster, said many of those stranded at the scene were walking down the mountain rather than risk being stuck for days.
George Foulsham, a Singapore-based marine biologist, described the moment that the disaster struck.
“I was outside, saw a white 50-story building of white come at me. I ran and it just flattened me,” he also told AFP.
“I tried to get up and it flattened me again. I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was dead. When I finally stood up, I couldn’t believe it passed me over and I was almost untouched.
“I saved for years to climb Everest. It feels like the mountain is saying it’s not meant to be climbed for now. Too much of a coincidence to see this twice in two years.”
Offers of support
Nepal and the rest of the Himalayas are particularly prone to earthquakes because of the collision of the Indian and Eurasia plates.
An 6.8 magnitude quake hit eastern Nepal in August 1988 killing 721 people, and a magnitude 8.1 quake killed 10,700 people in Nepal and eastern India in 1934.
The Red Cross, meanwhile, said it was concerned about the fate of rural villages close to the epicenter of the quake northwest of Kathmandu.
“Roads have been damaged or blocked by landslides and communication lines are down preventing us from reaching local Red Cross branches to get accurate information,” said its Asia-Pacific director Jagan Chapagain.
International aid groups and governments have sent emergency crew to reinforce those scrambling to find survivors in the devastated capital and in rural areas cut off by blocked roads and patchy phone networks.