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UK experts to aid quake operation

The UK has deployed a team of humanitarian experts to Nepal after a devastating earthquake ripped through the country, killing more than 1,000 people.

The eight-strong team will provide urgent humanitarian support for people affected by the disaster, International Development Secretary Justine Greening has said.

Disaster response specialists, including experts in search and rescue will travel to Nepal overnight and begin work assessing the scale of damage, and helping local authorities to direct the response.

Ms Greening said: "My thoughts are with the people of Nepal, in particular all those who have lost loved ones. The absolute priority must be to reach people who are trapped and injured, and provide shelter and protection to those who have lost their homes.

"Nepal needs our urgent humanitarian assistance. That is why we have rapidly deployed a team of humanitarian experts who will immediately begin work assessing the damage and helping the Nepalese authorities respond to this devastating earthquake."

The announcement comes after Prime Minister David Cameron earlier tweeted that the UK would do everything it could to help.

He posted: "Shocking news about the earthquake in Nepal - the UK will do all we can to help those caught up in it."

The majority of fatalities were reported in Nepal, with deaths also being confirmed in India, Tibet, Bangladesh and the Nepal-China border.

The 7.8 magnitude quake struck just before midday sending tremors through the Kathmandu Valley and the nearby city of Pokhara.

Labour leader Ed Miliband also expressed his sympathy for all those involved, tweeting: "The awful scenes in Nepal are heartbreaking. My thoughts go out to the people affected, and to those caring for survivors."

Tanya Barron, CEO of Plan International UK, who is in eastern Nepal on a scheduled visit, said she was on the top floor of a building when it started to "shake violently".

Oxfam is also lending its support to the rescue effort with teams in Nepal already assessing the humanitarian need and a team of technical experts preparing to fly from the UK with supplies to provide clean water, sanitation and emergency food supplies.

And Christian Aid has made an initial £50,000 available to help victims.

Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond also said his thoughts were with the people of Nepal and everyone "affected by the terrible loss of life and widespread damage caused by the earthquake".

He added: "We are in close contact with the Nepalese government. The British Embassy in Nepal is offering our assistance to the authorities and is providing consular assistance to British Nationals."

About an hour after the initial quake a magnitude 6.6 aftershock hit, and smaller aftershocks could be felt through the region for hours.

A senior mountaineering guide, Ang Tshering, said an avalanche swept the face of Mount Everest after the earthquake and government officials said at least 30 people were injured.

Gyanendra Shretha, an official with Nepal's mountaineering department, said the bodies of eight people had been recovered and an unknown number remain missing or injured.

A spokeswoman for Intrepid - who arrange treks in Nepal and around the Everest region - confirmed that they did have some groups which included Britons in the area, and said they were trying to get in touch with the tour groups.

A number of other Britons have also not been heard from since the quake struck.

Several are listed on Google's Person Finder tool under a section entitled 2015 Nepal Earthquake.

The database includes Sebastian Lovera, a 22-year-old qualified skiing and diving instructor, from Tonbridge, Kent.

His last known location was Khumjung on Tuesday, from where he was heading towards Everest Base Camp.

His step-father, Greg Smye-Rumsby, said: "Sebastian is an extremely lively and self-motivating person and that is why he went to Napal.

"We haven't heard from him. He would not have switched his phone off. We have tried ringing it. Sometimes it rings and sometimes we get an answer but it's an automated answer. It says the phone is switched off.

"He's certainly not a person to take risks. He's the absolute opposite."

Mr Lovera is described as being around 5ft 8in tall, with dark blond/light brown hair and very fit.

He has a red Black Diamond down jacket and brown Karrimor walking boots with a hole in the left boot.

Another Britons feared missing is Laura Wood, 23, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

She is described by a friend as a "g lowing lovely beautiful young girl often dressed in hippy type clothing".

Miss Wood, who has a strong northern accent, has been trekking in the Himalayas without any means of making contact.

Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg said: "My heart goes out to all the people of Nepal dealing with the after-effects of the earthquake that hit the region this morning.

"My thoughts are also with all the Nepalese people living here in the UK worried about their loved ones, including our Gurkha community, who are a shining testament to the resilience and great spirit of the Nepalese people. Our government will do everything we can to provide any help and assistance needed."

The British Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal.

Alexander Matheou, director of programmes at the charity, said: "This was a very powerful earthquake and its impact has been devastating. People are sleeping out in the open, too scared to return home while the aftershocks go on. Some have no home to return to.

"Search and rescue efforts are continuing, but some roads, especially in areas near the epicentre, have been damaged or blocked by landslides or rubble. We are extremely worried about these communities, especially those in Kathmandu Valley".

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From Belfast Telegraph