A climber and filmmaker from Ottawa, who was near the Mount Everest base camp when a deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, says the ensuing avalanche, fatalities and injuries are a nightmare he just wants to wake up from.
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Elia Saikaly and his team were stationed at a camp not far from the main base camp when the earthquake hit.
"We ran outside and it felt as though we were surfing on the extremely hard glacier ice that we were standing on," Saikaly told Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan on Monday. "Before we knew it, there was this 200 to 300-foot tidal wave of snow heading directly towards us, so we dove into the mess tent, zipped it down and just dove onto the ground and started to pray."
"It [sounded] like thunderous rock fall combined with what must have been 100 or 200-mile-an-hour winds, obviously from the snow coming directly towards us. It was terrible."
'Before we knew it, there was this 200 to 300-foot tidal wave of snow heading directly towards us, so we dove into the mess tent, zipped it down and just dove onto the ground and started to pray.'
- Elia Saikaly
Saikaly said he briefly opened up the tent to film what was happening before a guide pulled him back and closed the tent again.
"All we could do was stay put and wait for the avalanche to subside. ... It felt like an eternity," he said.
When the avalanche stopped about a minute later, the opened the mess tent. Saikaly said everything was covered in snow, and that when they climbed a hill to the main base camp, they saw that it had been obliterated.
Saikaly began looking for friends he knew were stationed there. One of them didn't survive.
"I saw two of them, and I went up to them and I hugged them and I asked them if they were OK and they said yes. And I turned around and I said, 'Where's Dan?' And there was this silence and there was this pale look. All they said was, 'He didn't make it,' and it was as if all time just stood still."
"And I was in a complete daze and I was in shock, and I just couldn't believe it. They had to be kidding. He was gone, just like that. ... It's a nightmare that you just want to wake up from."