More than 2,500 dead, Powerful Aftershocks Ravage Himalaya, Everest Climbers Evacuated
A day after Nepal’s devastating 7.8 earthquake (USGS estimate), the death toll has exceeded 2,500 people, according to reports in The New York Times, and elsewhere, and the number is expected to rise significantly. Climbers on Everest are trapped in Camps I and II, with others pinned beneath toppled blocks in the Khumbu Icefall. At least eighteen climbers are dead at Everest Base Camp and several dozen more injured, reports The Telegraph.
Since the quake on April 25, dozens of aftershocks have rumbled the area, the largest, with a magnitude of 6.7, recorded today, was located 42 miles from Kathmandu, the USGS has stated. Aftershocks continue to cause additional avalanches in the Himalaya.
The quake was at a depth of 9.3 miles, in an area 48 miles northwest of Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Valley has a population of 2.5 million, with many people living in unreinforced buildings, often made of brick, wood and mortar. Numerous houses have since have crumbled, according to CNN. Tens of thousands of people are afraid to re-enter their damaged homes, states NPR.
“We went round the city this evening,” writes Alpinist contributor and CEO of Sherpa Adventure Gear, Tashi Sherpa, in an email. “Many monuments that stood the wear of time, are now lost forever. The impact of this horrendous earthquake was even acutely felt in our highest of mountains where the last count of victims was more than eighteen in another avalanche on Everest. Another April and another tale of a sorrowful spring.”
[Photo] Krish Dulal/Wikimedia Commons
Initial reports indicate the Khumbu Icefall is too unsteady to cross. At dawn today, helicopters began evacuating injured climbers from Everest Base Camp, at 17,585 feet, and have completed seven trips, reports Mountain Trip.
The day of the earthquake, Alan Arnette sent out an audio recording from Camp 2 at 21,500 feet; you can listen to it here. He notes damage to the Khumbu Icefall. Because of instability, the Icefall Doctors have retreated and are no longer tending the area.
[ShakeMap] for the 2015-04-25 Nepal earthquake, Version 6/Wikimedia Commons
“Teams at Camp 1 and Camp 2 seem to be OK, but anxious to get down to base camp,” Mountain Guide Jacob Schmitz told Mountain Trip. “There have been only a couple of Sherpa who have descended through the icefall since the earthquake. There are many climbers missing still, and they expect to find more victims at base camp and in the icefall before this is all through. The Sherpa who descended through the icefall were able to hear some voices of trapped climbers on their way down.”
A 10:30 a.m. update from Mountain Trip reads: “Jacob is back in base camp after a trip up into the icefall this morning. They were able to determine that the route was relatively intact, and climbers were beginning to make their way down from the upper camps…. There are some injured climbers from the upper mountain, and some with altitude illness that are being helped down through the icefall this morning. The search will continue in base camp and through the icefall for any other victims.”
On his blog, Jon Kedrowski explained that an explosion of snow and debris caused by a collapsed serac has destroyed 40 to 50 percent of Everest’s south-side Base Camp. He describes “a huge jagged point” on Pumori (7151m), located west of Everest that has fallen causing “the most devastating event to ever hit Everest Basecamp Proper.” Kedrowski says the fallen serac compressed air into the snow and ice where it crashed, causing “hurricane force wind” to erupt outward, throwing anything in its path about 300 feet across the glacier. Those who were able to hide behind large rocks were spared. Kedrowski says several tent sites have been leveled.
This earthquake marks the deadliest event in Everest history. Last year, on April 18, sixteen Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung and Nepali high-altitude staff died in a single ice avalanche in Everest’s Khumbu Icefall.
In 1934 an 8.0 quake struck Nepal, killing over 10,000 people, destroying most of Kathmandu.
[Photo] United States Geological Survey/Wiki Commons
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Reports continue to come in about extensive damage in other mountain regions. Nepal’s news site, My Republica, says that another avalanche has struck Langtang Village, where more than 100 may have died.
We’ll continue to update during the weeks ahead.