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  • Nepal earthquake: death toll exceeds 1,800 and terror reaches heights of Everest – rolling report

    Rolling coverage of developments in Himalayan nation after 7.8 magnitude quake near Kathmandu

    My colleague Anna Codrea-Rado has been speaking this morning with tourists who were visiting Kathmandu when the quake struck. Here’s a dispatch she’s just sent through:

    Matthew Wojciechowski, 47, was in Kathmandu for a tattoo convention when the earthquake struck. “I thought it was a very loud helicopter landing at first,” he said.

    Wojciechowski said he was walking towards the hall where the convention was being held when it happened, and he rushed toward it to find his girlfriend who was inside.

    Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has just pledged a substantial aid package to deliver assistance to Nepal.

    The foreign minister said that although there were Australians in Nepal that were unaccounted for, there had been no reported deaths of Australians. Here’s the full release:

    The Australian Embassy in Nepal is providing assistance to Australians and has confirmed the safety of over 200.

    There are 549 Australians registered as travelling in Nepal and officials are working under challenging conditions to locate all those in the country.

    My colleague Ishwar Rauniyar has sent through another update, this time on the situation at Mount Everest. He said there are a large number of injured people waiting to be moved.

    Climbing guide Pemba Sherpa said at least 300 tourists are waiting at Lukla, the gateway to Everest.

    “Many injured are being ferried to Lukla from Feriche and are getting treatment here, if not recovered will be sent to Kathmandu,” Sherpa said.

    A large number of the Nepalese community have been displaced as a result of the earthquake. Many were forced to sleep outside on Saturday, after buildings were either reduced to rubble or simply too unstable to risk staying in. Aftershocks continued to reverberate throughout the night.

    The quake triggered severe avalanches on Mount Everest that has led to at least 17 deaths, and severely damaged the base camp. One climber who was there on Saturday during the quake described to CNN the devastating scenes at Everest:

    Jon Reiter is no stranger to Mount Everest –its world-record height, its prestige, its challenges.

    And its dangers.

    China’s Xinhua news agency has posted a series of photos highlighting the rescue effort in Tibet.

    While the epicentre of the quake was in Nepal, parts of Tibet have also been affected and are now being assessed as part of search and rescue operations.

    Rescuers battle landslide debris to deliver relief supplies in quake-hit Nyalam County, SW China's Tibet #NepalQuake pic.twitter.com/wRVlpT67pb

    My colleague Ishwar Rauniyar said the Nepal home ministry has again revised the death toll upwards to 1,896 people.

    He’s also outlined there are further concerns about the medical care the injured will be able to receive, with hospitals overloaded and short on supplies.

    Shops are closed, it’s even difficult to manage food, water for the injured.

    Foreign government are also trying to determine how many of their own citizens are missing in Nepal. This update outlines some of the international efforts that are ongoing to locate missing people:

    Foreign countries were rushing to confirm the situation of their nationals in Nepalon Sunday after the massive earthquake when it levelled buildings in Kathmandu and caused deadly avalanches reaching the heights of Everest and surrounds.

    In Australia officials, families and friends were appealing for information about a list of missing that could stretch into the dozens. Families put more than 60 names on the Red Cross Family Links website.

    My colleague Ishwar Rauniyar has just sent through another update from Nepal.

    The administrative chief of the Western Development Region, Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya, said Gorkha district is hard hit by the earthquake in western Nepal.

    “So far 107 people have died in the district, and we haven’t been able to send more support to three village development committees,” Thapaliya said.

    AAP is also reporting that Sir Edmund Hillary’s son Peter was trekking in Nepal when the earthquake struck:

    Sir Edmund Hillary’s son Peter was trekking in Nepal when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck.

    “He’s fine,” his wife Yvonne Oomen told AAP on Sunday.

    My colleague Ishwar Rauniyar has sent through this devastating image of one of Kathmandu’s oldest temples as he surveys the damage in the city. The temple – which previously was a resting place for the Nepalese – has been levelled by the quake.

    In a terrible prescience, an expert group met just one week ago in Kathmandu to discuss how the country could prepare for the next large earthquake. Associated Press spoke to one of the scientists who attended the meeting:

    Nepal’s devastating earthquake was the disaster experts knew was coming.

    Just a week ago, about 50 earthquake and social scientists from around the world came to Kathmandu, Nepal, to figure out how to get this poor, congested, overdeveloped, shoddily built area to prepare better for the big one, a repeat of the 1934 temblor that levelled this city. They knew they were racing the clock, but they didn’t know when what they feared would strike.

    The United States agency for international development has also released a statement. It said the organisation would deploy a disaster response team and an initial $1m aid pledge:

    Our thoughts are with the people of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck central Nepal today, affecting more than 6.6m people and causing widespread damage and destruction. USAID is deploying a disaster assistance response team (DART) to the region and is providing an initial $1m in emergency assistance as we assess humanitarian needs in cooperation with the government of Nepal.

    USAID is also activating an urban search and rescue team to accompany disaster experts. The earthquake, which hit just north-west of Nepal’s densely populated capital, Kathmandu, has caused numerous buildings to collapse and made some roads impassable. It also triggered an avalanche in the Mount Everest region and aftershocks of a considerable magnitude. In addition to the DART, USAID staff based in Bangkok, Thailand and Washington, DC, are monitoring the situation closely in coordination with US mission disaster relief officers in the region.

    The international community is beginning to pledge support to Nepal to help in the relief effort. At this early stage there have been few pledges of financial aid, with countries instead sending crisis personnel to assist in the major search and rescue operation that is under way.

    The United States secretary of state, John Kerry, has said they will pledge $1m to the aid effort and will also assist with a disaster response team. The Sri Lankan health minister, Rajitha Senaratne, has announced the country will send a plane with doctors, engineers and other supplies to assist Nepal.

    Tech companies have also been attempting to deploy their services to help with communications with those in affected areas of Nepal.

    Google has launched its “person finder” tool that allows people to provide information if they are looking for someone, or if they have information about the whereabouts of a person. The tool is designed to help people find each other in the aftermath of a humanitarian crisis.

    The New York Times has published an illuminating analysis of the genesis of quakes in Nepal and surrounding countries. It provides some important context to how this quake occurred and why the devastation has been so widespread:

    More than 25m years ago, India, once a separate island on a quickly sliding piece of the Earth’s crust, crashed into Asia. The two land masses are still colliding today, pushed together at a speed of 1.5 to 2 inches a year. The forces have pushed up the highest mountains in the world in the Himalayas and set off devastating earthquakes.

    Experts had warned of the danger to the people of Katmandu for decades. The death toll in Nepal on Saturday was practically inevitable given the tectonics, the local geology that made the shaking worse and the lax construction of buildings that could not withstand the shaking.

    This map from the United Nations office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs really highlights the sheer scope of the disaster unfolding in Nepal.

    A substantial portion of the population was exposed to moderate to strong levels of shaking arising from the quake. The most violent shaking occurred in populated areas around central Nepal.

    #Nepalquake: An estimated 4.6 million people were exposed to the #earthquake shaking pic.twitter.com/JfGkel2G0r

    My colleague Anna Codrea-Rado is in Nepal and has taken some pictures of the damage.

    She saw many people sleeping in the streets this morning, with the risks of aftershocks and unstable buildings still causing serious concern among residents.

    The harrowing images of the aftermath are continuing to come through. These pictures show the massive extent of the search effort that is under way in metropolitan areas of Nepal.

    My colleague Ishwar Rauniyarish has just sent through this update from Kathmandu. He is speaking with community members on the ground and just heard this from a Nepalese government official:

    A spokesman for the ministry of home affairs, Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, said that the death toll this morning was now at 1,805, with 4,700 injured.

    There are still aftershocks going on – people are in a state of confusion about how long will it take.

    The latest United Nations situation report on the quake and its aftermath reports that there are serious hospital shortages in Kathmandu. It also said that the widespread damage to buildings means that most of the population has been displaced and is without shelter:

    In Kathmandu Valley, hospitals area overcrowded, running out of room for storing dead bodies and also running short of emergency supplies. BIR hospital is treating people in the streets. There are reports that the hospital emergency stocks are depleting/used up and there is a need for a government decision on bringing kits from the military. Majority of population remaining outside houses due to fear of aftershocks and structural damage to buildings.

    GON has held a meeting of their central natural disaster relief committee (CNDRC), followed by meetings with cabinet and the humanitarian community. An HCT meeting followed in the evening. Government reports that all hospital staff mobilised and are deploying small teams to hospitals in Kathmandu. Chitwan and Pokhara which both are well staffed are sending medical teams to worst affected areas – Gorkha and Lamjung. Government is intending to set up displaced camps in Kathmandu Valley and outside, where there are APF bases as these have established water supply and security.

    This CCTV footage, although silent, paints an eerie picture of the moment the quake struck Nepal.

    This quake is likely to cause severe difficulties for Nepal. The country is one of the poorest in the world, and was listed 157th out of 187 countries in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development report in 2013.

    To put that in context, the latest data from the World Bank shows that 25% of the country lives below the poverty line. The economic forecast for the country was not promising, and predicted a decreasing GDP looking forward until 2017.

    Democratic politics was introduced in 1991 after popular protests, but was marked by frequent changes of government. The last king of Nepal, Gyanendra, twice assumed executive powers – in 2002 and 2005.

    Maoist rebels waged a decade-long campaign against the monarchy, leaving more than 12,000 people dead and 100,000 people displaced, UN figures show.

    The United States National Geographic Survey has posted a summary of the extent of the quake and provided some context about why the damage has been so widespread.

    The summary said the fault line ran across very heavily populated areas. The epicentre of the quake was just 80km north-east of Kathmandu.

    Although a major plate boundary with a history of large-to-great-sized earthquakes, large earthquakes on the Himalayan thrust are rare in the documented historical era. Just four events of M6 or larger have occurred within 250km of the April 25, 2015, earthquake over the past century. One, an M6.9 earthquake in August 1988, 240km to the south-east of the April 25 event, caused close to 1,500 fatalities. The largest, an M8.0 event known as the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake, occurred in a similar location to the 1988 event. It severely damaged Kathmandu, and is thought to have caused around 10,600 fatalities.

    We are starting to see more and more images that highlight the extent of the damage caused by the quake. Buildings and temples across the country have been nearly levelled, and many Nepalese are helping in the major rescue and recovery operations that are still ongoing.

    People aghast at the sight of their historic temples destroyed. Thousands walking home, chaos #NepalEarthquake pic.twitter.com/sSLGP6UsB5

    Truly awful sight. Kathmandu's Darbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in ruins after today's earthquake. pic.twitter.com/AoAtbGhmPq

    Still can't believe what I witnessed in #NepalQuake today. History crumbling, a nation in despair. pic.twitter.com/sFcOj2vzVi

    Welcome to our continuing coverage of events in Nepal after a major earthquake on Saturday. The country is waking up to the enormous damage caused by the quake and to continue search-and-rescue efforts for those who may be trapped or injured. Here’s a summary of events as they stand so far:

    - A state of emergency has been declared in Nepal after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country on Saturday.

    Continue reading...

  • Bali Nine: drug smugglers spend time with family as 72-hour clock ticks down

    Families visit as Indonesian prosecutors insist there will be no reprieve for gang ringleaders Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan

    Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are spending some of their final hours with family as the clock ticks down to their executions.

    The Bali Nine pair was told on Saturday they will be executed on Tuesday, a moment preserved by Sukumaran who signed one of three self-portraits “72 hours just started”.

    Related: Bali Nine: timeline of the convicted Australian drug smugglers' story

    Related: How Indonesia carries out the death penalty: rules of execution

    Continue reading...

  • Baltimore Freddie Gray protests turn violent as police and crowds clash
    • Arrests made outside Camden Yards baseball stadium on day of protest
    • Freddie Gray, 25, died on 12 April after being taken into police custody

    Related: 'Freddie Gray was me': frustration with police simmers after death in Baltimore

    Protesters in Baltimore furious over the death of Freddie Gray were arrested on Saturday as clashes broke out with police in riot gear outside the Oriole Park baseball stadium.

    well, it appears things have reached a breaking point of sorts pic.twitter.com/NsgJsf0hoq

    #Baltimore. #FreddieGray pic.twitter.com/RTZ8ovltja

    Continue reading...

  • Crisis, what crisis? Britain's richest double their wealth in 10 years

    The 1,000 wealthiest people in the UK are now worth £547bn, not counting what’s in their bank accounts, according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List

    The collective wealth of Britain’s richest people has more than doubled in the last 10 years, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

    This year’s list found the wealthiest 1,000 individuals and families now have a combined fortune of just over £547bn – or £547m each on average.

    Continue reading...

  • Migrant boat crisis: the story of the Greek hero on the beach
    One compelling image has come to represent all the Greek people who treated desperate migrants like fellow human beings

    It was an image that came to symbolise desperation and valour: the desperation of those who will take on the sea – and the men who ferry human cargo across it – to flee the ills that cannot keep them in their own countries. And the valour of those on Europe’s southern shores who rush to save them when tragedy strikes.

    Last week on the island of Rhodes, war, repression, dictatorship in distant Eritrea were far from the mind of army sergeant Antonis Deligiorgis. The world inhabited by Wegasi Nebiat, a 24-year-old Eritrean in the cabin of a yacht sailing towards the isle, was still far away.

    The boat disintegrated in a matter of minutes. It was as if it was made of paper

    I’ve never seen anything like it, the terror that can haunt a human’s eyes.

    Related: Forget the ‘war on smuggling’, we need to be helping refugees in need

    Continue reading...

  • Jessye Norman: a powerful voice joins America’s race debate
    The renowned opera star is becoming an increasingly prominent figure in American public life, condemning the racism suffered by Barack Obama and giving her support for Hillary Clinton

    Looking back at her childhood, the opera star Jessye Norman says she cannot remember a time she was not trying to sing. “I liked to put on some of my mother’s costume jewellery and a feather boa or something, and pretend I was some grand singer,” she recalled recently.

    Today, although Norman no longer performs in full-scale opera, she is solidly established as a “grande dame”.

    Continue reading...

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