Monday 18 November 2019

100 trapped on Everest as lack of helicopters hampers rescue

A rescue helicopter is shown at the Mount Everest south base camp in Nepal a day after a huge earthquake-caused avalanche killed at least 17 people (REUTERS/
A rescue helicopter is shown at the Mount Everest south base camp in Nepal a day after a huge earthquake-caused avalanche killed at least 17 people (REUTERS/

Harriet Alexander

A hundred climbers are still thought to be stranded at Camp One on Mount Everest, as rescuers bringing them down to Base Camp are hampered by a lack of helicopters.

Jelle Veyt, a Belgian climber who cycled from his home town to Everest, said that from where he was - at Base Camp - he had been told 100 people remained at the camp above him, at a height of 19,685 feet.

"It's three or four helicopters, just taking two or three people," said Mr Veyt. "So it's a long way to go."

It is currently thought that 18 people have died in the disaster on Everest, including three Americans.

Mr Veyt said there were initially 150 people at Camp One, but they were being gradually brought down to where he was.

"There's a new lot of people coming back. There's not enough power in the helicopters sometimes to take a lot of people at once. So there's constantly helicopters flying back and forth from Camp One to Base Camp, taking two or three people.

"Once in a while they take jerry cans or gasoline. They refuel the helicopter and it goes back to Camp One. This is constantly happening," he said, speaking on radio yesterday morning.

He tweeted that the weather was helping rescue efforts.

He said that on Sunday some climbers had tried to ascend to Camp One, to help their trapped colleagues, but were unable to do so.

"Yesterday there were some people trying to go down from Camp One into the ice fall, and another group of people tried to go up from Base Camp into the ice fall to meet them, but they were unable to go that far. So they immediately saw that the route was completely destroyed."

He posted photos of the rescue missions, and said everyone was hoping that the good conditions continued.

And the 29-year-old, who lived rough on the streets of Belgium for three years before sport helped him find a purpose in life, gave a powerful account of the moment on Saturday when the first avalanche on Everest swept towards him.

"Saturday I started going down from Camp One, and I just reached Base Camp when it started shaking. Quite heavily, actually, for several seconds," he said.

Mr Veyt was with a sherpa and two other climbers.

"And the sherpas behind me were screaming at me. And I looked behind me and saw this massive cloud of snow just coming down at me, at quite a speed, so immediately I just started running. I was running for my life. I tried to reach my tent but it was too late so I was just covered by a cloud of snow, which makes it difficult to see and breathe.

"I was with two other people, and we all got in the tent, so we were extremely lucky."

He described the terror as the wall of snow and ice hurtled towards him. "The first thing I thought - I actually thought I'm going to die.

"I started running, and thought, if this hits me I'm going to be gone for good.

"I just entered the tent and people screamed at me that I had to go and stand at a certain corner, because it was blowing in all directions and going to fall. So the tent wouldn't blow away.

"Immediately, you go out and start screaming for people that you know are around to see if they were there. Luckily, we found them.

"But then you start to look further, and you see tents blown away. Even some people in tents were swept away. Some of them died. They couldn't survive the blow."

He told how the team he was with rallied together with others to survive the onslaught.

"The first thing I tried to do was find my friend, the people I was around with.

"Then when everything calmed down more we started working together. For example, we have a big dining tent. And we were trying to put all the chairs and people in there, trying to get sleeping bags in there. Some of them were heavily injured - they got hit by rocks and by ice, some of them fell down because of running away."

By midday yesterday he tweeted that he and all his team were safely off the mountain, and heading to Kathmandu. "Help is needed there," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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