Search teams combed the world's eighth-highest peak Monday after an avalanche in Nepal left at least eight people dead and an undetermined number of others missing, including a cardiologist from Quebec.

Dr. Dominique Ouimet, 48, remains unaccounted for following the avalanche on the 8,156-metre high Mount Manaslu in northern Nepal early Sunday morning, his sister said.

Isabelle Ouimet told CBC's French news service that she had not given up hope that here brother would be found alive.

"Even if the chances are, perhaps, slim, I think we have to hang on to the idea that he is made strong, that he is without a doubt in a good position in hope that he receives our energy," she said.

"For now, I think this is what we have to do."

She said her brother was on his ninth mountaineering expedition.

Another Canadian who was on the mountain at the time, Greg Hill from Revelstoke, B.C., survived the avalanche and helped with the rescue.

Basanta Bahadur Kuwar, a police chief in northern Nepal, said rescuers operating in helicopters and on foot had recovered eight bodies by midday Monday.

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Bodies of climbers killed in an avalanche at Mount Manaslu lie covered with numbers at the Tribhuvan University Teaching hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal on Monday. (Niranjan Shrestha/Associated Press)

The French Foreign Ministry confirmed that four French climbers were among the dead and two were among the missing. Three French climbers were recovered from the avalanche and taken to hospital in Kathmandu for treatment.

Spain's Foreign Ministry said one climber killed was Spanish.

A German, an Italian and a guide from Nepal were among the deceased.

Ten climbers survived, but many were injured and were flown to hospitals by rescue helicopters. Two Germans were transported to hospitals in Kathmandu on Sunday, and two more Italians were flown there Monday.

Italian climber Silvio Mondinelli was asleep in his tent with another climber when they heard a violent sound, and their tent began to slide.

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

Canadian foreign affairs spokeswoman Chrystiane Roy said officials had been in contact with authorities in Nepal.

"We are following the developments closely and stand ready to provide consular assistance should there be a need," Roy said Sunday. "Our thoughts are with the victims [and their families] of this avalanche."

231 people on the mountain

Ouimet, an experienced climber who had already summited a number of peaks around the world, was trying to beat his altitude record of 6,960 metres, his sister said. He was also using the expedition to raise money for St-Jérôme Regional Hospital north of Montreal where he worked.

In an interview with Radio-Canada on Wednesday, Ouimet said the climb was going "well enough" and that he was glad to combine his love of climbing with fundraising.

"And so I said why not unite my personal passion with something useful, something a little more altruistic that goes beyond just one person?" he said. "And I have to say, it's made it a greater experience."

A total of 231 people, including climbers and guides, were on the mountain on Sunday, but not all were near the camp where the avalanche struck. Ouimet was at Camp 3, located at approximately 6,800 metres, and was preparing to reach the summit.

Dolraj Dhakal, a government administrator in the area, said the avalanche hit while about two dozen climbers were still in their sleeping bags around 4 a.m.

He said no one saw it coming, and officials are unable to describe the size of the avalanche that swept their camp high on the side of Mount Manaslu.

Hill, the Canadian who was also on the mountain on Sunday, was filming a German team trying to set a speed record for reaching the summit. Hill is renowed for ascending and skiing down two million vertical feet (609,600 metres) over the course of 2010.

"A huge avalanche swept through Camp 3 at 4:45 a.m. on Manaslu, catching lots of people in their sleeping bags, many dead, and injured," Hill wrote on his Facebook page Sunday. "Luckily our team is fine, and helped with the rescue … but my heart goes out to all the others."

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 season, when hundreds of climbers crowd the high Himalayan peaks.

With files from The Associated Press, The Canadian Press