A powerful earthquake struck Nepal and sent tremors through northern India on Saturday, killing hundreds of people, toppling a 19th-century tower in the capital Kathmandu and touching off a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest.

There were reports of devastation in outlying, isolated mountainous areas after the midday quake of magnitude 7.9, Nepal’s worst in 81 years, centred 50 miles (80 km) east of the second city, Pokhara.

A collapse in communications hampered relief efforts, raising fears of a humanitarian disaster across the impoverished Himalayan nation of 28 million people.

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