Mount Everest base camp Solukhumbu District, Nepal (file).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A huge earthquake in Nepal unleashed an avalanche on Mount Everest on Saturday, killing at least 10 people at the start of the main climbing season.
The avalanche buried part of the base camp, raising fears for the safety of hundreds of climbers who were in the area, said Gyanendra Shrestha of the Tourism Ministry in Kathmandu.
He said two tents at the camp had been filled with the injured. "The toll could go up, it may include foreigners as well as sherpas (guides)," he said.
Ministry officials estimated that at least 1,000 climbers, including about 400 foreigners, had been at base camp or on Everest when the earthquake struck.
April is one of the most popular times to scale Everest, before rain and clouds cloak the world's highest peak at the end of May.
The 7.9 magnitude quake was the strongest to hit Nepal for 81 years and was known to have killed well over 700 people, mostly in the Kathmandu Valley, as well as sending tremors through northern India.
Romanian climber Alex Gavan tweeted that there had been a "huge avalanche" on Everest and "many, many" people were up on the mountain. "Running for life from my tent," he said.
Another climber, Daniel Mazur, said the base camp had been "severely damaged," and his team were trapped.
"Please pray for everyone," he tweeted.
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.
"The trekkers are scattered all around the base camp and some had even trekked further up," Sapkota said. "It is almost impossible to get in touch with anyone."
Choti Sherpa, who works at the Everest Summiteers Association, said she had been unable to call her family and colleagues on the mountain. "Everyone is trying to contact each other, but we can't," she said. "We are all very worried."
An avalanche in April 2014 just above base camp killed 16 Nepali guides.