Hopes fade for survivors after deadly avalanche
Rescue teams on Monday continued their search for three mountain climbers who remained missing after an avalanche hit their camp on Sunday, killing at least nine people including four French nationals.
Hopes dwindled for the three mountain climbers still missing Monday on Nepal’s Manaslu mountain – also known as ‘Killer Mountain’ - after an avalanche hit their camp and killed at least nine people in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The French Foreign Ministry said four French climbers were among the dead and two others were missing. The other victims included a Canadian, an Italian, a German, a Nepalese and a Spaniard.
Rescuers brought down eight bodies from the 7,000-meter (22,960-foot) area Monday morning on one of Nepal highest peaks where the avalanche struck, police Chief Basanta Bahadur Kuwar said. The air rescue mission was halted for the day around noon.
The avalanche hit at about 4am on Sunday morning while more than two dozen climbers were sleeping in their tents at a camp high on Mount Manaslu, said Dolraj Dhakal, government administrator in the area.
Ten climbers survived, but many of them were injured and were flown to hospitals by rescue helicopters. Three French climbers and two Germans were transported to hospitals in Katmandu on Sunday, and two Italians were flown there Monday.
Psychological trauma for survivors
One of the French survivors, speaking to FRANCE24 correspondent Vikram Singh in Kathmandu, recalled being in his tent when the forceful avalanche hit. He recounted being dragged 500 meters for what seemed “an eternity.”
He suffered broken ribs and frostbite, without even taking into account the severe psychological impact. He added that both fellow climbers he had spoken to were also in shock.
Veteran Italian mountaineer Silvio Mondinelli, who has climbed the world’s 14 highest mountains, said he and fellow climber Christian Gobbi were sleeping in a tent when they heard a violent sound and felt their tent start to slide.
“It was only a few seconds and we did not know what happened but we had slid more than 200 meters (650 feet),” Mondinelli told The Associated Press in Katmandu.
Gobbi said they were unable to see at first because it was so dark and they had no light.
When the sun rose an hour later, they saw parts of tents scattered across the snow, along with people who had been killed or injured.
They said they were able to assist the injured with the help of Sherpa guides who came from lower camps. Those who could walk made their way down to the base camp while those who were injured were picked up by helicopters.
Some of the pilots who had been on the rescue mission told FRANCE24’s Singh that there were a lot of crevices in the area and that this combined with the heavy snowfall made finding the bodies trapped beneath a complicated operation.
Italian, German and French teams were on the mountain, with a total of 231 climbers and guides, but not all were at the higher camps hit by the avalanche.
Start of climbing season
Sunday’s avalanche came at the start of Nepal’s autumn climbing season, when the end of the monsoon rains makes weather in the high Himalayas unpredictable. Spring is a more popular mountaineering season, when hundreds of climbers crowd the high Himalayan peaks.
Mount Manaslu is 8,156 meters (26,760 feet) high and has attracted more climbers recently because it is considered one of the easier peaks to climb among the world’s tallest mountains.
Nepal has eight of the 14 highest peaks in the world. Climbers have complained in recent years that conditions on the mountains have deteriorated and risks of accidents have increased.
Veteran guide Apa, who has climbed Mount Everest a record 21 times, traveled across Nepal earlier this year campaigning about the effects of global warming on the mountains.
He told The Associated Press the mountains now have considerably less ice and snow, making it harder for climbers to use ice axes and crampons on their boots to get a grip on the slopes.
Loose snow also increases the risk of avalanches. The cause of Sunday’s avalanche was not immediately determined.
Avalanches are not very frequent on Mount Manaslu, but in 1972 one struck a team of climbers and killed six Koreans and 10 Nepalese guides.
(FRANCE24 with wires)