Quebec doctor missing following deadly Nepal avalanche
Published Sunday, September 23, 2012 7:29AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 23, 2012 11:33PM EDT
A Quebec doctor is among several climbers missing after an avalanche hit a Himalayan peak in Nepal on Sunday, killing at least nine.
Dominique Ouimet, a cardiologist based out of Quebec’s Saint-Jérôme regional hospital, was 7,000 metres up his 8,000 metre climb when the avalanche struck, said hospital spokesperson Chantale Fortin.
“We exchanged a few emails with him this week. It was easy to get information,” Fortin told reporters on Sunday. “Everything was going fine. They were waiting for the snow to pass a little bit so they could continue on for the expedition.”
Fortin said Ouimet was an experienced mountaineer who was scaling Mount Manaslu to raise money for cardiology equipment for the hospital.
This was his ninth major climb and Ouimet was hoping to achieve a personal best.
Local officials said 10 other climbers, including Greg Hill from Revelstoke B.C., survived the avalanche, but many suffered injuries and were taken by helicopter to hospitals.
A post on Hill’s Facebook page indicated he was in good health.
"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," he wrote on Facebook Sunday morning. "Luckily our team is fine, and helped with the rescue, Glenn Plake is also fine but my heart goes out to all the others."
Ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson Chrystiane Roy said Sunday that Canadian officials were in contact with Nepalese authorities.
"We are following the developments closely and stand ready to provide consular assistance should there be a need," she said. "Our thoughts are with the victims (and their families) of this avalanche."
Among the missing are five French citizens and an Italian citizen, reports U.K.-based paper The Telegraph.
An official with Nepal’s tourism ministry said that the dead climbers were from Spain, Germany and Nepal.
Spain’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that a Spanish citizen was among those killed, but did not identify the victim.
The other victims’ identities are yet to be confirmed.
Local police official Basanta Bahadur Kuwar said the bodies of a Nepalese guide and a German man were recovered and that pilots have spotted seven other bodies on northern Nepal’s Mount Manaslu – the world’s eighth-highest mountain.
Rescuers were also attempting to bring the bodies of the dead back to the base camp.
By Sunday afternoon, deteriorating weather conditions halted the air searches, said Kuwar.
The avalanche hit the group of climbers early in the morning at their camp 7,000 metres above sea level, as they prepared to ascend towards the is 8,156 metre-high summit.
In total there were 231 climbers and guides on the mountain at the time, but not all were at the camp when the avalanche hit, said officials.
Nepal’s autumn mountaineering push comes at the end of the rainy monsoon season, which often makes weather conditions unpredictable.
In recent years, climbers have complained of deteriorating conditions and increasing accident risks in Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks.
Earlier this year, mountain guide Apa, who has climbed Mount Everest a record 21 times, travelled across Nepal for months to campaign about the toll global warming had taken on the peaks.
He told The Associated Press that now the mountains have less ice and snow, making it more difficult for climbers to use their tools to grip the slopes.
Loose snow also increases the risk of avalanches.
Officials are continuing to investigate the cause of Sunday’s avalanche.