Dawa Tashi Sherpa, who survived the avalanche at Mount Everest, recovers in the intensive care unit at Grande International Hospital in Kathmandu on Friday. (AFP)
Kathmandu, April 18 (Reuters): An avalanche sweeping down Mount Everest killed 12 Nepali Sherpas today at the start of the main climbing season, the tourism ministry said, in what may be the deadliest single incident on the world’s highest peak.
The avalanche hit the Sherpas between Base Camp and Camp 1 at around 6.45am (6.31am IST), eyewitnesses and officials said. It occurred in the upper reaches of the Khumbu Icefall, a dangerous section known for frequent avalanches, Lakpa Sherpa of the Himalayan Rescue Association told Reuters from Base Camp.
It hit the most popular route to the summit. Three Sherpas were injured, while four persons are still missing and presumed buried under snow, the ministry said.
Today’s avalanche was the first major one on Mount Everest during this year’s climbing season, when hundreds of foreign and Nepali climbers will flock to the mountain to attempt to reach its 8,850 metre peak.
The Himalayan Guides, a Nepali hiking group, said six of its Sherpas had gone ahead of the climbers they were accompanying to fix ropes and crack snow and ice to carve out a trekking route when they were caught in the avalanche and died. “They were very strong and skilled climbers. It is a natural disaster and no one could do anything about it,” Ishwari Paudel, the owner of the group, said in Kathmandu. The other victims were working for other mountaineering groups.
More than 4,000 climbers have scaled Everest’s summit since it was first climbed by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953. The route they took along the South Col was the one hit by the avalanche today.
Nearly 250 people have died on Everest, which is on the border between Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet and can be climbed from both sides. Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks.
The search for those still missing has been called off for the night and will resume tomorrow, Sherpa said.
“An estimated 100 Sherpas or westerners were estimated to be above the impact area and are cut off from returning to Base Camp until a new route can be put in,” mountaineer and blogger Alan Arnette wrote from the scene, adding this could take days.
A travel blog for 67-year-old Ed Marzec, a Californian attempting to become the oldest American to climb Everest, reported that he was among tourists preparing to set out when the avalanche happened.