Destinations

One Aus reported dead, more missing after Nepal earthquake

Hannah Edensor / AFP

Nepal has been rocked by the worst disaster to hit the country in 80 years, with the death toll reportedly exceeding 3218.

The massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake ripped through parts of Nepal on Saturday, with powerful aftershocks of 6.7 magnitudes continuing to devastate the Himalayan nation.

Hospitals are struggling to treat the thousands of injured survivors, as aid groups and governments from around the world up their efforts to support the crippled nation.

The Kathmandu-based National Emergency Operation Centre put the toll in Nepal at 2352 earlier today, however this number has since been updated by officials and now stands at 3218, with more than 6200 people reported injured.

Aftershocks continue to jolt Kathmandu and surrounding areas in the wake of Saturday’s disaster, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop this morning stating that 830 Australians in Nepal had been confirmed safe, according to the ABC. Bishop didn’t confirm how many Australian travellers were still unaccounted for.

Almost 350 Australians are unaccounted for in the region, with the Australian embassy in Nepal able to get in contact with 200 of the 549 registered Australian travellers in the area, according to SMH.

The government is looking into reports that at least one Australian has been killed following a massive avalanche on Mount Everest as a result of the earthquake.

Temba Tsheri, a sherpa from the Dreamers’ Destination Treks and Expeditions, says an Australian was part of his group on the mountain.

“I have lost four team members in the avalanche – two Nepalis, one Chinese and Australian,” he said on Sunday.

“But the situation is so bad, this is only the beginning of bad news.”

Wendy Wu Tours has released a statement this morning, with MD Alan Alcock confirming the company currently have just one fully escorted group tour in Nepal at this time and the scheduled date of departure was today, Monday.

The company has been continually monitoring the group’s movements by telephone contact from the very moment the quake struck and all passengers have since been accommodated at the group hotel; a modern building designed to withstand earthquakes.

The airport was opened for commercial traffic on Sunday, with Alcock saying:

“As long as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific operate flights as scheduled Monday, which they both intend to do, then the group will be leaving Nepal. All passengers and ground operators with Wendy Wu Tours are safe and no one has been injured.”

The international airport at Kathmandu is open, but flight schedules have been disrupted by the earthquake.

The Intrepid Group has also confirmed that, after getting in contact with all trips currently operating in Nepal and the affected area, all travellers and leaders are all safe and accounted for.

Intrepid says its priority now is to make onward arrangements for travellers on the ground, and to establish contact with any of our travellers who we believe may be in the region before or after a scheduled trip.

G Adventures has confirmed that all travellers in both Nepal and North India have been contacted and confirmed safe, with operations teams on the ground continuing to monitor the situation and offer travellers support, advice, and assistance with their onward travel.

Nepal authorities said on Sunday that at least 2430 people in that country had died in Nepal alone, not including the 18 people that the Nepal Mountaineering Association says died in an earthquake-triggered avalanche on Mount Everest.

World Expeditions has reported that all clients and staff in Nepal and surrounding countries are safe and well, with World Expeditions’ CEO Sue Badyari saying “We’ve been in contact with our ground staff on all trips and have been advised that all are safe and well.”

Another 61 people died from the quake in India and a few in other neighbouring countries.

Chinese state media said 17 people had been killed in the Tibet region.

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 19 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.

The historic nine-storey Dharahara tower, a major tourist attraction, was among the buildings brought down in Kathmandu on Saturday.

Police said around 150 people were thought to have been in the tower at the time of the disaster, based on ticket sales.

“At least 30 dead bodies have been pulled out. We don’t have a number on the rescued but over 20 injured were helped out,” Bishwa Raj Pokharel, a local police official, told AFP.

This morning Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was offering $5 million in aid as a first response, according to the ABC, and would be considering what else it could do to help on the ground.

Bishop said a crisis response team was being sent to Nepal to help establish the number of Australians in the country, as well as providing humanitarian assistance.

Offers of help poured in from governments 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.

Meanwhile the Red Cross (IFRC) said it was concerned about the fate of rural villages close to the epicentre of the quake northwest of the capital 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 IFRC Asia Pacific director Jagan Chapagain.

Reports suggest the death toll could rise as high as 10,000.

International aid groups and governments have sent emergency crews to reinforce those scrambling to find survivors in the devastated capital, Kathmandu, and in rural areas cut off by blocked roads and patchy phone networks.

Those with missing relatives can call the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on (02) 6261 3305.


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