The first rescue plane carrying people injured in an avalanche at the Everest base camp has arrived in Kathmandu, carrying 15 climbers who survived the collapse prompted by Nepal's worst earthquake in 81 years.

Earlier on Sunday AFP news agency's Kathmandu bureau chief reported that six helicopters landed at the base camp after weather conditions improved overnight.

Saturday's earthquake killed more than 1,900 people including at least 17 who lost their lives on Everest.

Pictures taken by Roberto Schmidt, AFP's South Asia photo chief, showed an enormous cloud of snow and debris cascading down the mountain as survivors recalled the horrifying moment when disaster struck.

Images of the disaster show a terrifying cloud of snow roaring towards base camp.

"I ran and it just flattened me. I tried to get up and it flattened me again," George Foulsham, Singapore-based marine biologist, told AFP at base camp.

"I couldn't breathe, I thought I was dead. When I finally stood up, I couldn't believe it passed me over and I was almost untouched."

Toll set to rise

Tulsi Gautam, a spokesperson for Nepal's tourism department, which issues the permits to climb the world's tallest mountain, said the death toll had risen to 17 and could increase further.

"Seventeen have been reported dead so far and 61 are injured," he said.

"Those who are able are walking down. Others are being airlifted to Pheriche."

Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal mountaineering association, confirmed that 17 people were known to have died and more than 60 injured.

Small fixes made to the infographic [Al Jazeera]

"We don't know their nationalities but most of them would be foreigners," Sherpa told AFP.

Sherpa said that there were more than 800 people at different places when the avalanche, prompted by Saturday's earthquake, struck at around lunch time.

Many had travelled to Nepal for the start of the annual climbing season, which was cancelled last year after 16 sherpa guides were killed in what was previously the deadliest disaster in the mountain's history.

Alex Gavan, a Romanian climber, said on Twitter that "all badly injured heli evacuated".

Ropes, ice screws and snow pickets were being flown to a large number of climbers trapped above the treacherous Khumbu icefall which was the scene of last year's disaster, he said.

Snowfalls on Saturday had thwarted efforts to airlift survivors before the skies cleared on Sunday morning.

Google's loss

Dan Fredinburg, Google executive, was among the handful of victims to have been identified so far.

He was with several colleagues who survived the tragedy, Lawrence You, director of privacy at Google, said in a blog post.

"Sadly, we lost one of our own in this tragedy. Dan Fredinburg, a long-time member of the Privacy organization ... was in Nepal with three other Googlers, hiking Mount Everest. He has passed away," You wrote.

"The other three Googlers with him are safe and we are working to get them home quickly."

You said Google.org was contributing $1m to the response efforts.

US-based Madison Mountaineering said its doctor Marisa Eve Girawong had died in the avalanche.

"Eve perished in the aftermath of the avalanche that struck the base camp area following the devastating Nepal earthquake earlier today," the company said in a statement.

The earthquake dislodged a "huge block of ice" above the base camp which prompted a "huge aerosol avalanche" that struck the upper section of base camp, blowing tents across the mountain, another team said on its website, adding that its climbers were uninjured.

 

Source: Agencies