26 Apr 2015

NZ climbers and guides stranded

10:11 pm on 26 April 2015

New Zealand climbers and guides high on Mt Everest have been trapped by dozens of avalanches triggered by Saturday's 7.8 magnitude quake in Nepal, and today's big 6.7 magnitude aftershock.

Rescue team personnel carry an injured person towards a waiting rescue helicopter at Everest Base Camp.

Rescue team personnel carry an injured person towards a waiting rescue helicopter at Everest Base Camp. Photo: AFP

At least 2000 people are reported to have died after a 7.8 magnitude quake hit Nepal yesterday, including at least 17 people killed in an avalanche triggered on Mt Everest.

At least 35 people have been killed in India, according to reports, with one death also reported in Bangladesh.

One guiding company, Wanaka-based Adventure Consultants, has 31 staff and climbing clients - including five from New Zealand and one from Australia - stranded at Camp One.

A Danish climber on the mountain said there were still hundreds of climbers up the mountain, and even if helicopters were available to evacuate them it would cost over $US8000 to fly out just two climbers.

Carsten Pedersen said the normal route through the dangerous the Khumbu Icefall had been destroyed by avalanches, and the climbers would need to find a new route down to base camp.

He said it would be just about impossible to get the climbers off the mountain.

Mr Pedersen said if the weather was good and there were unlimited resources it would be possible to take them off with helicopters - but it was likely that would be impossible because there were so many people up there.

150 NZers now confirmed safe

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said 150 New Zealanders in Nepal had now been confirmed as safe.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said communication problems were hampering efforts to clarify how many more New Zealanders were unaccounted for.

"We have no information at this stage suggesting New Zealand casualties but given the scale of what happened there, we're obviously apprehensive and want to make sure that we track everyone down as quickly as we can."

However, 15 New Zealanders in Nepal have been reported as uncontactable at this stage by their families on a website created after the earthquake disaster.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has created the webpage, which allows concerned relatives of people in Nepal to report them as missing.

Those based there can also use the site to indicate that they are safe and three people have done that.

Rescue teams work to clear rubble in the capital's Durbar Square.

Rescue teams work to clear rubble in the capital's Durbar Square. Photo: AFP

NZ to contribute $1m aid

The New Zealand Government is to contribute $1 million to help with aid in Nepal, and may also send a search and rescue team.

Prime Minister John Key said New Zealanders felt deeply connected to Nepal.

He said the aid would be mainly distributed through the Red Cross and although New Zealand had not been asked for the aid, he believed it was the right thing to do.

Mr Key said New Zealand would consider putting in more money.

He said New Zealand had offered to send a search and rescue team, but in the short term, Nepal had decided to use rescuers from neighbouring nations.

However that decision could still be reconsidered.

Christchurch looks to coordinate aid

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel will meet with councillors on Tuesday to see how they can coordinate a Christchurch response to the devastating earthquake in Nepal.

Ms Dalziel said their our own earthquake experience had made Christchurch people acutely aware of the trauma that people would be experiencing.

She said early financial assistance was needed, so the council would coordinate a fundraising effort that will enable everyone to contribute.

Guiding company confirms deaths

Wanaka-based mountain guiding company Adventure Consultants has confirmed the deaths of two Nepalese staff on Mt Everest in yesterday's deadly earthquake.

Adventure Consultants said the quake triggered an avalanche from Mt Pumori, which caused significant damage to the company's camp at Everest Base Camp.

Spokesperson Steve Moffat said two New Zealand staff members at Base Camp were safe as were five at Camp One.

Mr Moffat said rescue efforts were underway but bad weather in the region was preventing helicopter access. The climbing team would remain at Camp One until conditions improved, he said.

Another New Zealand company, Trekking Adventures, said all of its ground staff were safe.

However, owner Ann Young, said she had not been able to contact three clients currently on a cycle tour in Nepal.

They include a New Zealander, an Australian and a French national.

She said trying to contact them had been difficult given communication networks appeared to be down and there was a lack of cellphone coverage.

'Rubble was falling down'

New Zealander Prue Smith in Kathmandu said her thoughts immediately went to her family back home when the earthquake struck.

Ms Smith, the general manager of Himalayan Trust NZ, was in a garden courtyard with about 20 people in Nepal's capital when the earthquake struck yesterday.

Ms Smith said the experience was frightening.

"There was a lot of shaking, a lot of rolling in the ground below us," she said. "We saw cracks emerging in the walls surrounding us - rubble was falling down."

Ms Smith said she thought of her family in Auckland and how far away she was. "You just want to be at home during a time like this".

People around her suffered minor injuries, including grazed legs and facial injuries from fallen bricks.

Onlookers and rescue workers gather at the foot of the destroyed Darahara Tower.

Onlookers and rescue workers gather at the foot of the destroyed Darahara Tower in Kathmandu. Photo: AFP

Ms Smith was yesterday speaking from a hotel carpark, where she was asked to stay for safety.

She said people had run to the hotel covered in dust and "incredibly shaken", describing how ancient temples had fallen down around them.

Fairfax New Zealand reporter Matt Rilkoff, who was on assignment in Kathmandu with colleagues Mike Scott, Peter Drury and Peter Visagie when the earthquake hit, said in an article for Stuff that the streets were in chaos.

"Thousands of people had poured into the middle of the road ... I saw a blood-covered monk being bundled away by soldiers carrying him in a blanket."

Fairfax reported the team were now waiting in their hotel to leave the city.

Nepalese in New Zealand were trying to get in touch with their family members in Nepal yesterday but Nepal New Zealand Friendship Society President Rajesh Dhakal said phone lines were down.

He said he was initially able to contact some family and friends through Facebook and other internet apps.

If is safe for you to share your story, you can reach Radio New Zealand by emailing iwitness@radionz.co.nz. If you have concerns about a New Zealand citizen family member in Nepal, please contact MFAT on 04 439 8000.