Officials were last night looking into reports that a British national has died on Mount Everest following the earthquake in Nepal.
The reports came shortly after the Foreign Office confirmed the death of a non-resident British national who had lived in Hong Kong.
“There are still falling rocks in the area that are killing people”Nina Ross
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said officials are “urgently investigating” reports of a further Briton killed at Everest Base Camp. He then tweeted that a UK aid flight has left Kathmandu carrying British nationals.
Mr Hammond tweeted yesterday: “UK aid flight now departed Kathmandu airport on return journey with c120 British nationals on board.”
The 7.8-magnitude quake on Saturday killed more than 5,000 people. Many survivors are in desperate need of food and water. At home, £19 million had been donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Nepal Earthquake Appeal a day after it was launched.
The total was made up of £14m given by the UK public by text, phone and online, and £5m from the UK government through Aid Match.
Meanwhile, a stranded British woman remains in an area of the devastated country where falling rocks are said to be still killing people. Susannah Ross, 20, from Bath, is among a group of trekkers in the Langtang valley in the north of the country and she is not expected to be rescued until tomorrow at the earliest, her sister said. Nina Ross said they received a satellite message saying the group is still awaiting rescue and she called for pressure to be put on authorities to act.
Ms Ross, 25, said the group flattened some land so there is a helicopter landing pad, but they have been told she may not be rescued until today.
“We’re really hoping to get through to different embassies to hurry it up because there’s still falling rocks in that area that are killing people,” she said.
Ms Ross said she has not spoken to her sister directly, and added: “We really need pressure on the embassies, on any kind of charities, on anyone, to get helicopters out there.”
She said people from other countries were lifted out yesterday as their embassies had paid for helicopters. “So the British embassy haven’t paid for helicopters to get Susannah out and that means that she’s been left there with some people,” she said.
A number of other relatives of British and Irish people are still awaiting news of their loved ones who might have been in the region at the time of the earthquake.
Nepal’s Prime Minister, Sushil Koirala, has said the death toll could eventually double.
Meanwhile, British personnel have arrived in Nepal to help with the overall rescue operation as medical services are at “breaking point” after thousands were killed.
A team of more than 60 UK international search and rescue responders and specialist rescue dogs have arrived, with some already travelling out of the capital to more remote areas, the Department for International Development said.
The personnel are drawn from 15 fire and rescue services from across the UK, and their capabilities include locating deeply buried victims, constructing timber supports to safely shore up buildings and providing advanced life support.
They were joined by an eight-strong group of expert trauma medics, and more UK medical crews are expected to arrive in the country in the coming days.
Rob Holden, head of the UK emergency medical team, said: “We are hearing a lot of reports from the ground that there are thousands of survivors with trauma injuries who urgently need surgery– worryingly, this includes the most vulnerable of society such as women and children.
“This massive earthquake has stretched medical services in an already impoverished nation to breaking point – doctors have been forced to operate around the clock, and often in makeshift hospitals made of tents.”
Eight million people have been affected, according to the United Nations, by a disaster which wiped out entire villages.
In an appeal on behalf of the DEC, actress and Gurkha campaigner Joanna Lumley said: “My father served with the Gurkhas, who for 200 years have sacrificed their lives for Britain. Now it’s our turn to help their country.”
Members of the Nepalese and Gurkha community in the UK have spoken of their sense of helplessness at watching the “heart-wrenching” images on television.
Disaster experts believe the earthquake will leave Nepal dependent on aid from countries such as the UK for years, and recovery from the devastation could take a decade.
Donations can be made to the DEC Nepal Earthquake Appeal at dec.org.uk, or by calling a 24-hour donation line on 0370 60 60 900.
Earlier, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said Britain is to give another £5 million of support to the rescue efforts.
Anyone who is caught up in the incident or worried about a family member should call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 0000.