The death toll from the Nepal earthquake disaster could reach 10,000, the country’s prime minister said yesterday, as Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond revealed that UK authorities are investigating reports of the first British fatality.
Mr Hammond said the Foreign Office was looking into unconfirmed reports that a British national living outside the UK was killed by Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude quake.
Reports from the ravaged country say the death toll has passed 5,000, but prime minister Sushil Koirala said it could eventually reach double that number.
Mr Hammond said: “I’ve spoken to the Nepalese prime minister to assure him of our commitment to see what other assistance Nepal urgently needs.
“We have a C-17 loaded with British Army Gurkha engineers and equipment in the region. We also have a Department for International Development chartered Boeing 767 loaded with rescue teams and supplies.
“They’re both waiting for landing slots when the weather at Kathmandu permits. They will be in and operating as soon as possible.
It’s supply and demand – we can’t help everyoneDev Ratna Dhakhwa
“In the meantime, we have already got some UK personnel in on other flights and there are 60 British personnel, search and rescue teams and other experts already on the ground delivering assistance.”
The latest news came as efforts continued to provide food, water and other aid for the eight million people in 39 districts in the Himalayan nation the UN say have been affected.
A medical student from a British university was among those killed in avalanches on Everest.
The University of Leicester confirmed that American Dr Marisa Eve Girawong had been part-way through studies on its postgraduate mountain medicine course when she died at the peak’s base camp in ice-falls triggered by the earthquake.
Dr Girawong, known as Eve, was with the Seattle-based Madison Mountaineering team when disaster struck.
Dr Peter Barry, from the university’s infection, immunity and inflammation department, said: “She was delightful to know – a beautiful, intelligent, outgoing person who effortlessly got on with everyone.
“She had plans to continue her work in the mountains and was excited about the adventures ahead of her. This is a real loss to our community.”
Entire villages have been wiped out and more than 1.4 million people are in need of food and water, according to the latest reports from Nepal.
British and Irish medics and volunteers have been dispatched to the worst-affected areas, with the RAF, firefighters from the UK International Search and Rescue Team and medics from the Doctors Of The World charity among those involved.
Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, secretary general of the Nepal Red Cross Society, said Sherpas would be needed to help reach remote areas where survivors may be cut off.
He said: “The difficulty we face here is that everyone is in need. Every day we have had crowds coming to our office asking for tarpaulin sheets. It’s a supply and demand problem, we simply cannot help everyone.”