A surreal memento of the Nepal earthquake, viewed upwards of six million times yesterday. By my count it’s 25 seconds from the moment the man with the camera exclaims that the ground is moving to the moment that the snow and ice are crashing down upon him. It looks, in fact, like most of it sails directly over the camp as he and his comrades are back on their feet within two minutes. That’s where the clip is deceiving, though: The avalanche ended up killing at least 17 people at Everest base camp, where this was recorded, including an executive at Google who was there helping to create a Google street map to the camp. Others at the camp who managed to make it out alive had a harder time of it than the cameraman did:
At least 15 injured climbers returned to Katmandu, including Bhim Bahadur Khatri, 35, a cook and a Sherpa who was working in a meal tent when a huge wall of snow overwhelmed him.
“I managed to dig out of what could easily have been my grave,” he told the Associated Press. “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.”
At least 61 were injured. It’s already the deadliest incident on Everest in recorded history. Ironically, people at camps further up the mountain were luckier, as there are no known deaths caused by the immediate avalanche. But they’ve got their own problems now:
It will also be difficult to evacuate the climbers above base camp as the route back through the Khumbu Icefall was blocked, Tshering told Reuters.
The route through the Khumbu Icefall – which is fixed annually with ropes and ladders and gives access to the higher slopes – appeared to have been badly damaged.
Around 150 climbers are still trapped at the higher camps, their route down blocked and the snow beneath them still shifting repeatedly as aftershocks of last week’s quake keep coming. The only way to safety is by helicopter, and that depends on the weather — and even then, the choppers can take only two people at a time.
Three Americans, including the Google exec, are dead. So far.
Update: A commenter weighs in.
I’m involved in the rescue efforts up there. Some of those expeditions are clients of mine and we’ve been working with the heli evac company to get everyone down. To those who might be genuinely interested in what’s going on and what happened, here ya go:
The first earthquake ended up breaking off a large block of ice (and when I meant large, I mean the size of house) between Pumori and Nuptse. The mountains make up the west ridge above the valley that those who climb the South Col route go up. The ice block fell right in the most dangerous part of the mountain: the Ice Fall between Camp 1 and Base Camp. Due to the steep slope, the glacier breaks up into huge seracs with lots of deep crevasses. It takes weeks to build a route through there each season.
The avalanche landed right in there, destroying the route, killing a few people who were in there. But the avalanche was so big, it carried right into Base Camp, which is huge, killing many that were just unfortunate enough to have camped closer to that area. In all the years of expeditions on Everest, no avalanche had EVER reached those points.
This avalanche was like a bomb, less like what you might think of normal avalanches with snow. There is house sized ice barrelling down at terminal velocity and exploding ice everywhere. Not to be too ghoulish, but the injuries and deaths are extremely gruesome.
So, there are over a 100 people caught above the ice fall. They can’t get down because the route that goes through it was destroyed and it takes weeks to establish. The heli company that is working there has gotten about have the folks from 19- 20k ft down to safety. There have been some seriously heroic rescue attempts and lives saved with many risking their own safety as aftershocks and further avalanches risk more incidents.
Down in the some of the valleys, there are rescue efforts to help areas where entire villages have been wiped out by other avalanches and landslides.
The internet commenter is devilish breed. Enjoy the disaster porn. Those saying that these people got what they deserved should just go jump in a lake. Jump in two lakes.