International

22 killed, 61 injured as avalanche sweeps Everest base camp

This photo provided by Malaysian climber Azim Afif shows nightfall after an avalanche triggered by a massive earthquake swept across Everest Base Camp, Nepal on Saturday. Mr. Afif and his team of four others from the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor, all survived the avalanche.  

At least 22 climbers have died near the base camp of Mt Everest where hundreds of climbers, including many foreigners, are stranded after an avalanche triggered by Nepal’s massive earthquake slammed into a part of the camp on the world’s highest peak.

More than 60 climbers were injured and hundreds of foreign adventurers, hikers and guides at the base camp were feared missing when the avalanche swept down the Everest and buried under snow a section of the mountaineering camp Saturday.

While 17 people were killed at the base camp, five more casualties were reported today from areas below the base camp, Home Ministry officials said. “Tents have been blown away,” Gelu Sherpa, who was at the camp when disaster struck, said, adding, “There is a lot of confusion on the mountain and the toll will rise.”

Twenty-two of the most seriously injured were taken by helicopter to Pheriche village, the nearest medical facility. However, bad weather and communications were hampering more helicopter sorties, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

The avalanche began on Saturday on Mount Kumori, a 7,000-metre-high mountain just a few kilometres from Everest, gathering strength as it headed toward the base camp where climbing expeditions have been preparing to make their summit attempts in the coming weeks, he said. Numerous climbers may now be cut off on routes leading to the top of the world’s highest peak.

The avalanche or perhaps a series of avalanches hidden in a massive white cloud ploughed into a part of base camp, a sprawling seasonal village of climbers, guides and porters, flattening at least 30 tents, Mr. Tshering said. All of the dead and injured were at base camp.

Survivors reached over Internet messaging services described a scene of terror as the snow and ice roared through the nearby Khumbu Icefall and into the camp.

Azim Afif, the 27-year-old leader of a climbing team from University of Technology Malaysia, said in an interview on WhatsApp that his group was in a meal tent waiting for lunch when suddenly the table and everything around them began shaking.

When they ran outside, they saw “a wall of ice coming towards us,” and heard the cries of Sherpa guides shouting for people to run for their lives, he wrote. “We just think to find a place to hide and save our life.”

The small team planned to sleep together on Saturday night in one large tent “to make sure if anything happen, we are together,” Mr. Afif said.

Quickly, though, climbing teams scattered across the camp and began to work together to search for survivors.

Gordon Janow, the director of programmes for the Washington-based guiding outfit Alpine Ascents International, said from Seattle that his team had come through the avalanche unscathed. Their first goal was to deal with the devastation at base camp, he said, and they would then try to create new routes to help climbers stuck above the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. The icefall, which is just above base camp, is a key route up the lower part of Everest.

“Everybody’s pretty much in rescue mode, but this is different from some independent climbing accident where people can be rescued and taken somewhere else,” Mr. Janow said. “I don’t know where somewhere else is.”

By Sunday morning, authorities said at least 1,865 people across the region had been confirmed dead.

The nationalities of base camp victims were unclear as climbers described chaotic attempts to treat the injured amid fears of more landslides and aftershocks that continue to rattle the region. Chinese media reported that a Chinese climber and two Sherpa guides were among the dead.

Dan Fredinburg, a Google executive who described himself as an adventurer, was among the dead, Google confirmed. Lawrence You, the company’s director of privacy, posted online that Fredinburg was with three other Google employees hiking Mount Everest. The other three, he added, are safe. Fredinburg served as product manager and the head of privacy at Google X.

Actor Sophia Bush, who has appeared in photos with Fredinburg posted by entertainment outlets, called him “one-of-a-kind” in a post on Instagram.

Reports in China said an amateur team encountered an avalanche on the north slope of the mountain at an elevation of more than 7,000 metres (23,000 feet) and safely retreated to a lower camp.

The quake struck at around noon on Saturday, just over a year after the deadliest avalanche on record hit Everest, killing 16 Sherpa guides on April 18, 2014.

The 2014 deaths occurred at the Icefall, where the edge of the slow-moving glacier is known to crack, cave and send huge chunks of ice tumbling without warning.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The numbers have skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 800 climbers during the 2013 spring season.



Massive earthquake in Nepal; over 1,500 killed

>

7.9 earthquake in Nepal; tremors felt across north India

A strong 7.9-magnitude earthquake shook Nepal's capital causing massive damage. Some tremors are reported to have lasted as much as 20 seconds.


>

A selection of images capturing the extent of damage




These visualisations show how the intensity varied with distance from epicentre. > Read more
The PM spoke to Nepal President and Chief Ministers of Bihar, Sikkim. > Read more
Helpline no.s: +91 11 2301 2113, +91 11 2301 4104 and +91 11 2301 7905. > Read more
Nepal quake: where and how the tremors were felt

Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls high-level meeting

24-hr control room in MEA; Nepal thanks India

"Blind thrust" quakes are ones that do not break the surface, and tend to be more frequent. These records indicate that the region has a rich history of quakes in the past centuries. > Read more
  Was this the big earthquake that was predicted in the Himalayas?

A magnitude-7.8 earthquake shook Nepal’s capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley on Saturday, the worst quake in the Himalayan nation in over 80 years. A look at the world’s strongest earthquakes since 1900. > Read more
    The world’s strongest earthquakes since 1900


This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 5, 2021 7:55:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/17-killed-61-injured-as-avalanche-sweeps-everest-base-camp/article7143219.ece

Next Story