8 dead, 3 missing in Nepal after deadly avalanche on one of world’s tallest peaks

September 24th, 2012 by Staff

Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) — A second day of rescue efforts in Nepal ended Monday with three people still missing after an avalanche that killed at least eight people on the mountain of Manaslu.

Rescue workers who had been at the mountain Monday said that many of the mountaineers initially reported missing had been accounted for. But hopes were quickly fading of finding the three missing.

Despite early estimates putting the death toll above 10, the authorities and people involved in the rescue efforts said Monday that so far eight people had been confirmed dead: four French citizens, one German, one Italian, one Nepali and one Spanish.

The avalanche hit an area where climbers were camping on Manaslu, the world’s eighth-highest peak. Bad weather had hampered the search and rescue efforts on Sunday.

Twelve people — all of them European — were injured in the disaster, said Binod Singh, a spokesman for the Nepali Police.

One of the French survivors, Arnaud Manel, said Monday that he was in a tent with two other people when large amounts of snow began to fall on it. He said he managed to break the icy tent open and get out, and then rolled for what he thought was about 200 meters (655 feet) in the snow.

“When I stopped rolling, I was neck deep in snow,” said Manel, a 42-year-old surgeon. “I was only wearing a T-shirt. I couldn’t breathe.”

He said enough of the snow around him melted to allow him to clamber out. He said that he managed to save one friend, but that another, buried deeper in the snow, died.

Another of the avalanche survivors is Glen Plake, an American who with two other ski mountaineers had planned to descend from the summit on skis without the aid of oxygen, according to Trey Cook, the editor-in-chief of EpicTV.com, which makes films on skiing, climbing and other adventure sports.

Cook said he spoke to Plake by satellite phone and the skier described it as “a major, major accident.”

The avalanche destroyed all 25 tents at one of the camping zones and bashed and moved 12 tents in another zone, Plake told Cook.

Plake said he had lost a few front teeth and had an eye injury after being swept 300 meters (985 feet) down the mountain, Cook told CNN.

When he came to a stop, Plake said he was still in his sleeping bag, in his tent and still had on the headlamp he had been using to read his Bible verses before the avalanche struck, according to Cook.

Plake said he went looking for the rest of the people in the camp, all of whom were supposed to be wearing avalanche transceivers — electronic devices that can signal other similar receivers — as he was.

Two of his colleagues were missing, including the man with whom he shared a tent, Plake told Cook.

The avalanche, which took place Sunday about 5 a.m., was most likely caused by a huge piece of ice that fell from a glacier above the camp, said Christian Trommsdorff, vice president of the National Syndicate of High Mountain Guides in Chamonix, France.

Cook said he thought it was a piece of ice the size of six or seven football fields.

Most of the mountaineers had set up tents at 6,600 meters (21,650 feet), said Yograj Kadel of Simrik Air, which participated in the rescue efforts. The other mountaineers were apparently 500 meters (1,640 feet) below the camp that was destroyed, according to the EpicTV.com report.

The mountain is 8,163 meters (26,780 feet) high.

Kenton Cool, a mountain climber from England who reached the summit of Manaslu in 2010, told CNN that the weather during the post-monsoon season can be quite unsettled. His friends on the mountain told him that in the past 10 days or so there had been “quite high levels of snow on the mountain,” he said.

Teams normally wait for new snow to settle before leaving camp.

Cool, who said Manaslu had a “fearsome reputation,” predicted that searchers will have a hard time locating some of the people still on the mountain. The area where the avalanche happened is the site of some large crevasses.

“It will be hard to know exactly where everyone was,” he said. “It will be hard to find the bodies, let alone retrieve them.”

According to Nepal tourism officials, 231 foreign mountaineers from 25 teams were attempting to climb the mountain in the current autumn season that ends in November.


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