Nepal officials ID 8 avalanche victims
Published Monday, September 24, 2012 6:36AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 24, 2012 1:56PM EDT
Nepalese officials have identified the victims of an avalanche on Mount Manaslu, as rescue crews continue their search for six people, including one Canadian, still feared missing.
On Monday, Nepal's Tourism Ministry said eight of the nine people killed when the avalanche struck in the pre-dawn hours Sunday include four French nationals, and others from Germany, Italy, Spain and Nepal.
The victims recovered so far are: Catalan activist Marti Gasull, 43, of Spain; Chamonix, France-based mountain guide Fabrice Priez; Chamonix resident Catherine Marie Andree Ricard; Lyon, France native Ludovic Paul Nicholas Challeat; Philippe Lucien Bos of France; Christian Mittermeyer of Germany; Alberto Magliano of Italy and Dawa Dorji of Nepal.
Local police Chief Basanta Bahadur Kuwar told The Associated Press that rescuers were still trying to retrieve the ninth body stranded some 1,100 metres from the summit of the world's eighth-tallest mountain.
Four helicopters were searching by air, he said, while climbers and guides were searching the slopes on foot.
At least 6 other climbers are still believed to be missing. Although their identities and nationalities remains unclear, it has been confirmed that 48-year-old Quebec cardiologist Dominique Ouimet is among them.
So far, the French Foreign Ministry has said four of the dead were nationals of France and Spain's foreign ministry has confirmed one of the dead was a Spanish climber.
Three French, two Germans and two Italians were reported flown to hospitals for treatment of injuries suffered when the avalanche struck the high-altitude camp at approximately 4 a.m. Sunday.
Mount Manaslu's 8,156 metre-high peak has gained popularity in recent years, because it had been considered one of the world's easier mammoth peaks to summit.
But, according to Ang Tshering of the Asian Trekking agency in Kathmandu, that's no longer the case.
"It used to be a low-risk mountain in the past but now that has all changed," Tshering told The Associated Press, noting that increased traffic and unpredictable weather conditions are key factors.
Monitoring developments from Fort Collins, Colo., professional mountaineer Alan Arnette told CTV's Canada AM that there are risks inherent in climbing during the autumn season.
"Right now every single day gets shorter, and it gets colder," he said, noting that Mount Manaslu recently experienced several days of heavy snowfall.
Arnette, who has tackled almost a dozen mountains in Nepal, including four trips to the peak of Mount Everest, explained that climbers will typically wait for the snow to settle before heading out.
"I personally know a couple of the people that were there, and I've read their reports, and I can't imagine them going up if they thought the avalanche danger was still a risk after last week's events."
Arnette said the deadly slide Sunday likely came with little warning as a large piece of ice, called a serac, suddenly gave way.
"It collapsed, it released and it triggered the overall slide," he explained.
In an interview with AP, Italian climber Silvio Mondinelli described being woken up by the sudden rush of ice and snow.
"It was only a few seconds and we did not know what happened but we had slid more than 200 metres," Mondinelli said in Kathmandu Monday.
It was an hour before sunrise, he said, explaining that they were able to help the injured with the assistance of sherpas who walked up from lower camps.
Officials investigating the cause say more than 230 climbers and guides were on the mountain, although not all were at the same altitude where the avalanche struck.
Kuwar said ten survivors were also rescued, some of whom were flown to hospitals for treatment.
Revelstoke, B.C. resident Greg Hill was among those on the mountain when the avalanche hit.
"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 Facebook Sunday morning. "Luckily our team is fine, and helped with the rescue."
In a statement released later Sunday, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Chrystiane Roy said Canadian officials were 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. "Our thoughts are with the victims (and their families) of this avalanche."
The Canadian Press reports that Dominique’s sister Isabelle Ouimet has since expressed frustration on Facebook, that the family had not been contacted directly.
"I'd like it if someone in the organization would take the trouble to provide us with news," Ouimet wrote.
"Nobody has contacted the family of Dominique Ouimet. I've done phone interviews on the radio and television in Canada. I have more tomorrow. I'll have to be honest and tell them the truth: we don't know who's in charge of the search, how the search is being done, what steps have been taken so far. After the shock, anger is rising. Time is of the essence."
Earlier, a spokesperson for the Saint-Jérôme regional hospital where Dominique Ouimet worked said they had been in email contact with the doctor in the last week.
"It was easy to get information,” Chantale Fortin told reporters.
“Everything was going fine. They were waiting for the snow to pass a little bit so they could continue on for the expedition.”
Ouimet was an experienced mountaineer with eight other major climbs under his belt, she said, who was scaling Mount Manaslu to raise money for new cardiology equipment.