As survivors made their way off Mount Everest on Sunday, dozens of people who were on the mountain remained missing after a deadly earthquake in the mountain country of Nepal triggered an avalanche.
At least 18 people are dead and dozens more were injured in the avalanche set off by the massive magnitude-7.8 earthquake that has left at least 2,500 dead in Nepal and neighboring countries.
Among them: Google executive Daniel Fredinburg, who was part of a Google team attempting to create a Google street map of the trek to Everest Base Camp, and Marisa Eve Girawong, an emergency room physician’s assistant serving as a base camp doctor for the Seattle-based Madison Mountaineering expedition company.
The avalanche left Garrett Madison, who is the expedition company’s owner, and 14 other climbers stranded at a camp farther up the mountain.
“We are running low on food and fuel and we have to get down. There’s no path or route through the Khumbu icefall,” Madison said in a satellite phone call posted on the company’s website. “Our only option to get down is by helicopter evacuation.”
The Jagged Globe expedition company reported that injured climbers were evacuated by helicopter to Katmandu, while those who were not injured began a four-day trek to Lukla, a mountain town with a small airport. Another Jagged Edge team elsewhere in Nepal is missing, the company says.
A video shot by German climber Jost Kobusch shows an avalanche beginning seconds after the ground started shaking, followed by panic as climbers tried to outrun a wall of snow and ice, fleeing into tents.
At least 15 injured climbers returned to Katmandu, including Bhim Bahadur Khatri, 35, a cook and a Sherpa who was working in a meal tent when a huge wall of snow overwhelmed him.
“I managed to dig out of what could easily have been my grave,” he told the Associated Press. “I wiggled and used my hands as claws to dig as much as I could. I was suffocating, I could not breathe. But I knew I had to survive.”
The 2015 climbing season was just starting in earnest, as winter winds subside and before the summer monsoon season.
Before Saturday’s earthquake, the single deadliest incident in the history of Everest came a year and a week earlier, on April 18, 2014, when an avalanche claimed the lives of 16 Nepalese Sherpas, ending the 2014 climbing season and leading to a worldwide debate over the safety of the local guides who lead wealthy foreign climbers on expeditions to the world’s highest peak.
In 2013, 658 reached the peak of Mount Everest, with hundreds more making an attempt.
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SOURCE: USA Today – Gregory Korte and Aamer Madhani