Mount Everest avalanche survivors flown to hospital, others hit with aftershocks

A Canadian among the survivors of an earthquake-triggered avalanche on Mount Everest posts to Facebook that he barely escaped, as the first group of injured climbers is flown from base camp to Nepal's capital.

17 climbers confirmed dead, Sherpa survivors fear death toll could rise

RAW: Moments of deadly Nepal earthquake captured on camera

8 years ago
Duration 1:05
Security camera from a home in Kathmandu shows violence and power of Saturday's quake

The first group of survivors from an earthquake-triggered avalanche that swept through the Mount Everest base camp were flown to Nepal's capital on Sunday and taken to hospitals. None appeared to have life-threatening injuries.

At least 17 people were killed when Saturday's avalanche, set off by the massive earthquake that struck Nepal, obliterated part of the rocky village of nylon tents, where dozens of teams were training and acclimatizing themselves to higher altitudes as they prepared to make summit attempts in the next few weeks.

Twenty-two of the most seriously injured had already been taken by helicopter for treatment in the village of Pheriche, the location of the nearest medical facility. But bad weather and communications were hampering more helicopter flights, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

I must have been swept almost 200 metres.- Pemba Sherpa

Later Sunday, a plane carrying 15 injured people arrived in the capital, Kathmandu, from Lukla, home of the closest airport to Mount Everest. Officials refused to provide details on their conditions, but most appeared to have broken bones or other treatable injuries.

Of those evacuated, 12 were Nepalese Sherpas. There was also one person each from China, South Korea and Japan.

The Sherpa survivors said they feared that many more people could be dead on Everest.

I was suffocating, I could not breathe.- Bhim Bahadur Khatri

​Pemba Sherpa, a 43-year-old guide with the right side of his face bandaged, was surprised he had survived.

He rushed from his tent when the earthquake hit near the south side base camp on Saturday and was standing in the open when "I heard a big noise, and the next thing I know I was swept away by the snow," he said. "I must have been swept almost 200 metres."

Later, he regained consciousness. "I was in a tent surrounded by some foreigners. I did not know what happened or where I was," he said after being taken to Kathmandu Medical College Hospital.

For generations, thousands of ethnic Sherpas, many of whom also use "Sherpa" as a surname, have made their livings working on mountaineering expeditions as guides, porters or cooks.

Hair-raising video

Video posted online on Sunday appears to show the avalanche the moment it struck base camp. 

The two-and-half minutes of footage, posted by YouTube user Jost Kobusch, begins with a view of the camp's many bright orange and yellow tents. Climbers mill around, apparently discussing the strange rumbling that can be heard in the distance. 

Off camera, a man says, "The ground is shaking." (Warning: the video contains graphic language.) 

Others are heard laughing and swearing in a mix of English and German. 

Seconds later, they and the camera see a cloud-sized wall of snow coming straight at them. Everyone runs for the tents, spewing profanities. 

The cameraman and another climber appear to make it into a tent, where they remain, hunkered down for about a minute.

When they emerge, clearly rattled by the experience, the camera catches only glimpses of others as they stumble through the snowy debris. 

Canadian 'barely escaped'

A 19-year-old from Newmarket, Ont., has reassured his friends on Facebook that he survived the avalanche after they and his father had not heard from him since Friday.

Dylan Sartor texted his dad this photo on Friday, saying he would be trekking to Everest base camp over the weekend. He posted to his Facebook page on Sunday saying he was just below the camp when the avalanche hit but he's OK. (Submitted by Raymond Sartor)
Dylan Sartor said he was just below base camp when the avalanche hit and "barely escaped" when two buildings collapsed around him.

Saturday's magnitude-7.8 quake struck at around noon, just over a year after the deadliest avalanche on record hit Everest, killing 16 Sherpa guides on April 18, 2014.

Witnesses said the avalanche began on Mount Kumori, a 7,000-metre-high mountain just a few kilometres from Everest, gathering strength as it headed toward base camp and the lower reaches of Everest.

Two other Canadians — Elia Saikaly of Ottawa and Vanessa Aube of Calgary — are known to have survived the avalanche. 

'Huge wall of snow'

Bhim Bahadur Khatri, 35, another survivor flown to Kathmandu, said he was cooking in a meal tent when the quake struck.

Injured Sherpa guides sit inside a bus after they were evacuated from Mount Everest Base Camp, in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Sunday. (Bikram Rai/Associated Press)
"We all rushed out to the open and the next moment a huge wall of snow just piled on me," he said in a brief airport interview before being driven to a nearby hospital. "I managed to dig out of what could easily have been my grave. I wiggled and used my hands as claws to dig as much as I could. I was suffocating, I could not breathe. But I knew I had to survive."

When he finally dug his way out, gulping in fresh air, he was surrounded by devastation. Part of the base camp village was gone.

"I looked around and saw the tents all torn and crushed. Many people were injured," he said. "I had lived but lost many of my friends."

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the 8,850-metre summit since 1953, when Everest was first conquered by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The numbers have skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 800 climbers during the 2013 spring season.

At least 388 Canadians were registered to be in Nepal when the deadly quake hit, but the Foreign Affairs department said that was only an estimate, as registration is voluntary.

With files from CBC News