UPDATE: According to the Associated Press, authorities in Nepal say the death toll is up to 876.

Officials in Nepal say nearly 700 people are dead following a massive earthquake. 

The Associated Press reports that the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit just outside of Kathmandu just before noon this morning, killing at least 688 people. It was followed by a  6.6-magnitude aftershock roughly an hour later, and CNN adds that several others followed: 

The quake, which struck at 11:41 local time (05:51 GMT). occurred at a depth of 9.3 miles, which is considered shallow and more damaging than a quake centered deeper under the earth's crust. It was reported by people in the area as having lasted a very long time. On person said he felt as if he were on a ship in rough seas.

The U.S. Geological Survey had at first rated the temblor at 7.5 magnitude but later upgraded the strength. It reported aftershocks of 6.6 and 5.1 magnitude, among many others others.

In all, the USGS said, at least 15 aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or greater had been felt in Nepal so far.

One witness told CNN by phone that people were gathered outdoors in fear. Another said via Facebook that power was out and people were listening for news on their car radios.

Furthermore, officials expect the death toll to climb. 

[via CNN and Associated Press]