A powerful earthquake centred in Nepal has killed more than 1,800 people across four countries, flattening houses and temples as well as triggering a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest.
The epicentre was 50 miles northwest of the capital Kathmandu and 50 miles east of the second city of Pokhara shortly before noon on Saturday.
The magnitude 7.9 quake was the strongest in Nepal for 81 years and tremors could be felt hundreds of miles away in northern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Tibet.
At least 300 people were reported dead in Kathmandu and 634 in the Kathmandu Valley. There are fears many others are trapped under rubble.
The quake, which was relatively shallow – making it more powerful – toppled the city’s iconic 60 metre (100ft) high Dharahara tower, with rescuers scrambling to reach up to 200 people reportedly stuck inside.
Around a dozen bodies had earlier been removed from the 19th Century UNESCO-recognised monument, also known as the Bhimsen Tower. A 10-metre jagged stump was what remained of the building.
Deaths have also been reported across Nepal’s borders. At least 36 people, including a 15-year-old girl, have been killed in India, 12 in Tibet and four in Bangladesh. Two Chinese citizens died at the Nepal-China border.
The quake was followed by a magnitude 6.6 aftershock and other tremors which reportedly lasted up to a minute.
Little is known about the extent of damage to Pokhara, and the Red Cross said it was concerned about the fate of rural villages close to the epicentre.
Britain is sending an eight-strong team of experts, including search and rescue specialists, to Nepal to provide urgent support.
India has sent a military air transporter with three tons of supplies and a 40-strong disaster response team. Three more planes will follow, carrying a mobile hospital and further relief teams.
In the densely-populated capital, hospitals are struggling to cope. As they began to fill up, some patients were being treated in car parks.
The quake also triggered a “huge avalanche” on Mount Everest, leaving at least 10 climbers dead.
Mountaineer Alex Gavan tweeted from Mount Pumori: “Everest base camp huge earthquake then huge avalanche from pumori.
“Running for life from my tent. Unhurt. Many many people up the mountain.”
Another climber, Daniel Mazur, said Everest base camp had been “severely damaged” and his team was trapped. “Please pray for everyone,” he tweeted.
In Kathmandu, a number of centuries-old temples have been destroyed and the country’s only international airport was briefly closed.
“It was a pretty massive earthquake here, the strongest I’ve ever felt in my life,” photojournalist Nayantara, who is in Pokhara, told XulNews.
“There is quite a lot of damage. The building I was in has quite a lot of cracks in it,” she said.
Another witness tweeted: “LOTS of shaking. Hid under table, then ran outside. Still feel like swaying. Cables/walls down.”
“Lots of panic, people wandering in the streets,” @jonk said, adding that people were gathering in the middle of an intersection to avoid falling debris.
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “Shocking news about the earthquake in Nepal – the UK will do all we can to help those caught up in it.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband also expressed his sympathy for all those involved, tweeting: “The awful scenes in Nepal are heartbreaking. My thoughts go out to the people affected, and to those caring for survivors.”
Meanwhile, people are using social media to try and contact their loved ones who may have been caught up in the quake.
A Google Person Finder tool has been set up and a Facebook page has also been created, which has been liked more than 5,000 times.