The death toll from the Nepalese earthquake is expected to soar today as rescue workers begin to unpick their way through the icy devastation.
It was confirmed the mega-quake had claimed more than 1,300 lives last night. The tremor also sparked an avalanche on Everest, swamping the formidable peak’s base camp and resulting in at least 18 climbers being killed.
A number of climbers are thought to have been hideously injured by a blanket of falling snow and ice. At least 1,000 climbers were in the area at the time.
Tour operators have confirmed British climbers were in the area. It is not known if any were caught in the carnage. It is the worst earthquake to hit the region in more than 80 years.
Senior mountaineering guide, Ang Tshering, of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said many people are feared trapped in their tents.
Mohan Krishna Sapkota, joint secretary in the Nepalese tourism ministry, said the government was struggling to assess the damage on Everest because of poor phone coverage.
“It is almost impossible to get in touch with anyone,” he said.
The 7.8 magnitude quake struck between the capital Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara just before midday yesterday, wreaking chaos throughout the region. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised the UK’s full support. “The UK will do all we can to help those caught up in it,” he said.
The earthquake was felt for hundreds of miles. There were at least 36 deaths in northern India, 12 in Chinese Tibet and four in Bangladesh.
Tanya Barron, chief executive of humanitarian organisation Plan International UK, was in eastern Nepal on a scheduled visit when the earthquake struck.
She said the inhospitable terrain will make rescue efforts and getting aid relief through to those who need it difficult.
She added: “It was very scary. Our colleagues advised us that the quake felt much stronger than usual. We are safe and now we are working with our colleagues to respond.
“The hospitals are already overwhelmed. Our immediate priorities are to assist the emergency services with search and rescue and to establish shelter.”
Oxfam said it was lending support to the rescue effort and preparing to fly from the UK with supplies.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with those affected.”