People survey a site damaged by an earthquake, in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015. Image Credit: Reuteres

Kathmandu:  A massive earthquake killed more than 1,200 people Saturday as it tore through large parts of Nepal, toppling office blocks and towers in Kathmandu and triggering a deadly avalanche at Everest base camp.

Officials said at least 1,170 people are known to have died in Nepal, making it the quake-prone Himalayan nation's worst disaster in more than 80 years.

But the final toll from the 7.8 magnitude quake could be much higher, and dozens more people were reported killed in neighbouring India and China.

"The death toll has reached 1,170," Nepal police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam told AFP, adding that rescue efforts were still underway.

Emergency workers fanned out across the Himalayan nation to rescue those trapped under collapsed homes, buildings and other debris.

Offers of help poured in from governments around the world, with the United States announcing it was sending in a disaster response team.

"Deaths have been reported from all regions except the far west. All our security personnel have been deployed to rescue and assist those in need," Bam told AFP.

Everest base camp avalanche kills 10

An avalanche at Mount Everest base camp triggered by a massive earthquake killed at least 10 people on Saturday, including foreign climbers, a Nepalese official said.

"We don't have the details yet, but 10 have been reported dead so far, including foreign climbers," Gyanendra Kumar Shrestha from Nepal's tourism department told AFP.

Hotlines set up 

India's Ministry of External Affairs has set up hotlines to provide help and information round the clock.

The numbers to the 24-hour Control Room are +91 11 2301 2113, +91 11 2301 4104 and +91 11 2301 7905, an official statement said.

Devastation in Nepal

The 19th-century Dharara Tower was among several structures that collapsed, with several bodies seen at the site of the disaster, witnesses and television footage showed. Around a dozen bodies were taken away from the ruins, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

Television footage showed that large numbers of offices and homes had collapsed in Kathmandu while roads had been split in two by the force of the impact. Dozens of people with injuries were being brought to the main hospital in central Kathmandu.

Panicked residents rushed into the streets as the tremor erupted around midday, with the impact felt hundreds of miles away in big swathes of northern India and even in Bangladesh. Families were see racing outside their homes.

"The walls of houses have collapsed around me onto the road. All the families are outside in their yards huddled together. The tremors are still going on," an AFP reporter said in Kathmandu.

Another resident recounted scenes of panic and mayhem.

"Everything started shaking. Everything fell down. The walls around the main road have collapsed. The national stadiums gates have collapsed," Kathmandu resident Anupa Shrestha said.

There were reports of avalanches in the Mount Everest region.

Casualties reported

One person was reportedly killed when an old building collapsed in the premises of the Indian consulate.

A girl died after a statue fell on her in a park in Kathmandu, a witness said, while another died in India when her house collapsed.

In Nepal's Pokhara area, police spokesman Kamal Singh Ban told the media that they have received information about the death of 10 people in the area.

The quake struck 81 kilometres northwest of Kathmandu before noon on Saturday, with walls crumbling and families racing outside of their homes in Nepal.

"The walls of houses have collapsed around me onto the road. All the families are outside in their yards huddled together. The tremors are still going on," an AFP reporter said in Kathmandu.

Several buildings collapsed in the centre of the capital, including centuries-old temples, said resident Prachanda Sual.

He said he saw people running through the streets in panic. Ambulance sirens blared and government helicopters hovered overhead.

National radio warned people to stay outdoors because more aftershocks are feared. It is also asking people to maintain calm.

Old Kathmandu city is a warren of tightly packed, narrow lanes with poorly constructed homes piled on top of each other.

Epicentre of quake

Nepal's Information Minister Minendra Rijal told India's NDTV station that rescue teams were on the scene in Kathmandu.

The epicentre was 80 kilometres northwest of Kathmandu, he said. The Kathmandu Valley is densely populated with nearly 2.5 million, with the quality of buildings often poor.

An Associated Press reporter in Kathmandu said a wall in his compound collapsed and there was damage to nearby buildings.

Initially measured at 7.5 magnitude, the quake was later adjusted to 7.9, with a depth of 15 kilometres, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Media reports said the quake tremors lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes and were felt across the across the border in Pakistan and India, including in the capital New Delhi and in the cities of Guwahati, Kolkata, Jaipur, Lucknow and Patna.

In Delhi, people were seen frantically rushing out of high-rise buildings as soon as the tremors were felt.

"We are in the process of finding more information and are working to reach out to those affected, both at home and in Nepal," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet. The AFP building in Delhi was evacuated twice following the quake, a correspondent said.

The quake was also felt in neighbouring Pakistan.

Mohammad Shahab, a resident from Lahore, Pakistan, said he was sitting in his office when the earthquake rocked the city near the border with India.

He said the tremors continued for a while but now the situation was normal.


With inputs from agencies