Montreal

Nepal avalanche: Quebec woman says she was lucky to escape deadly slide

A Quebec woman says she was lucky to survive after heavy snows and an avalanche in a mountainous region popular with hikers killed at least 27 people, including four Canadians.

About 70 people missing after blizzard and avalanche

Sonia Lévêque of Quebec was trekking in Nepal when her hiking group was struck by an avalanche. She told CBC/Radio-Canada that she was lucky to have survived. (Facebook)

Quebecer Sonia Lévêque says she was lucky to escape alive from the blizzard and avalanches in Nepal that have killed at least 27 people, including four Canadians.

Heavy snow set off avalanches in a mountainous region popular with hikers. About 70 people are still missing along or near the popular Annapurna circuit, 160 kilometres northwest of the capital, Kathmandu. Three Canadians — two women and one man — were rescued Thursday. 

Lévêque was climbing with a group in the Annapurna Mountains on Wednesday.

Nepalese soldiers prepare to airlift an avalanche victim in Thorong La pass area on Wednesday. Four Canadians also perished. (Nepalese Army/Associated Press)

“It was a nightmare the day of the avalanche. It happened extremely fast. In just a few seconds, we were separated. Three people from our group were swept up by the avalanche,” Lévêque told CBC/Radio-Canada.

She said the group had just seen a couple of minor avalanches nearby while climbing at around 4,000 metres, but didn’t think they were anything serious.

And then the big one hit. 

Lévêque said she and her partner were dragged about three metres by the avalanche, which left them buried up to their waists in snow.

She said members of her group that were in front of and behind her were buried by at least 20 metres of snow.

“We were very lucky,” Lévêque said.

She and the rest of the survivors were helicoptered back to Kathmandu after their local guide called for help.

3 Quebec women feared dead

Montreal-based travel company Terra Ultima says three Quebec women who left for Nepal in early October are missing and feared dead. The women include two in their 50s and one in her 30s. They were on a three-week trek.

Julien Passerini of Terra Ultima said six people from Quebec were in Nepal's mountainous north, including the three missing women.

Three Canadian trekkers who survived the avalanche were taken by helicopter to a shelter in a nearby village. No update was immediately available on their conditions.

A pair of Ottawa women, Virginia Schwartz and Jane Van Criekingen, who had been in the area and were initially among the missing, have been confirmed safe. 

In a message posted on Facebook, Schwartz thanked people for their "kind words and prayers, we are safe."

"We are trekking out of the avalanche danger zone and heading back down along the circuit. We are now in Manang on the lower side of the pass and hope to be in Pokhara in 3-4 days," Schwartz wrote.
The avalanche occurred near the Phu region of Nepal. (Hannah Wise/CBC)

Three unidentified hikers from British Columbia are also reported to be safe and in Manang. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday tweeted that he and his wife, "express our condolences to the families and friends of the four Canadians who lost their lives in an avalanche in Nepal."

The identity of the deceased and where they are from has not yet been released.

Earlier Thursday, an official with a trekking group closely involved in the search and rescue efforts told CBC News that the bodies of two Canadians had been recovered. After talking to Sherpas involved with the rescue team, the official said that the Canadian bodies had not yet been recovered.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Department has not disclosed any details, but officials say they are in close contact with local officials and trekking companies as they seek more information.

"We are aware of Canadians who were affected by this avalanche. Consular officials remain in contact with family and friends and continue to provide assistance during this difficult time," a statement said.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story cited a source in Nepal as saying that the bodies of two Canadians had been recovered. In fact, the bodies of Canadians killed in the area have yet to be recovered.
    Oct 16, 2014 4:46 PM ET

With files from The Associated Press, The Canadian Press and Reuters

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