x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Nepal climbers tell of avalanche horror

Survivors endured terrifying one-hour wait for the sun to rise only to see the remains of tents and the bodies of victims strewn across the snow on the Himalayan peak.

A helicopter carries survivors from the scene of an avalanche on Mount Manaslu in northern Nepal on Sunday. Rescuers have recovered eight bodies from the mountain, and many of the 10 survivors were injured. The number of people missing is unclear.
A helicopter carries survivors from the scene of an avalanche on Mount Manaslu in northern Nepal on Sunday. Rescuers have recovered eight bodies from the mountain, and many of the 10 survivors were injured. The number of people missing is unclear.

KATHMANDU // The mountaineers were in darkness when they heard the thunderous boom, and felt the crush of snow. Helplessly, they slid down Mount Manaslu, the world's eighth-highest peak.

It would be an hour before the sun rose and the survivors saw the horrors the avalanche had wrought.

The remains of tents and the bodies of victims were strewn across the snow on the Himalayan peak in Nepal. Several people were injured and more still were simply gone.

"It was only a few seconds and we did not know what happened, but we had slid more than 200 metres," said Silvio Mondinelli, an Italian climber. "All we wanted was for it to stop."

Rescuers have recovered eight bodies - four French, one each from Germany, Italy and Spain, and a Nepali guide. Many of the 10 survivors of Sunday's tragedy, including Mr Mondinelli, were injured and flown to hospital by rescue helicopters.

The number of climbers unaccounted for remained unclear yesterday. The emergency services had said on Monday that they were attempting to recover a ninth body, and that six people were still missing. They were more tentative about those numbers yesterday.

Police Chief Basanta Bahadur Kuwar said there was lot of confusion among the climbers and because the avalanche occurred at a height of 7,000 metres, it was difficult for anyone but trained Sherpa guides to reach the area.

Balkrishan Ghimire, the director of the Nepal mountaineering department, said the authorities had the names of only three people reported missing. The government did not have officials posted on the mountain and the nearest police station is two-day trek from the base camp. Two French climbers were still unaccounted for on Monday afternoon, the French foreign ministry said.

The aerial search has ended, but Sherpa guides were continuing to search the slopes yesterday. The avalanche hit about 4am on Sunday while more than two dozen climbers were sleeping in tents at Camp 3 on Mount Manaslu.

Three French climbers and two Germans were flown to hospitals in Katmandu on Sunday. Two Italians were taken there on Monday - Mr Mondinelli, who has climbed the world's 14 highest peaks, and Christian Gobbi.

Mr Mondinelli said a third Italian climber and their Sherpa guide, who were in another tent had been buried by the avalanche and died.

Mr Mondinelli and Mr Gobbi looked out of their torn tent after the avalanche, but with no light, they could see nothing. "We found someone's boots and put them on," Gobbi said.

When the sun rose, they said, they were able to assist the injured with the help of Sherpa guides who came up from lower mountain camps. The survivors who could walk returned to the base camp while the more seriously injured were collected by helicopters.