Avalanche Disaster: 20 Killed Oct 20, 2005

Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 08:04 pm
How many people here on A2K read/heard about this disaster in the Himalayas on October 20, 2005?

None of the "news junkies" we've asked in this "neck of the woods" were aware of this catastrophic avalanche. Seems that none of the news media in the U.S. carried the story!!! Am I missing something?

[quote] http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5321281-110633,00.html

Ten days ago these words became tragically prophetic. "Stol", as he was known, was trekking in the Himalayas when furious blizzards set off a series of avalanches. He and six other French mountaineers, including his wife Marie-Odile, disappeared with 11 Nepalese climbers when a wall of snow thundered into their base camp on the 6,981-metre Kanguru peak. Only four of the 22-strong expedition survived.

It was the worst ever single loss of life in the mountains and a devastating blow not just to the victims' families in France and Nepal, but to the close-knit global climbing community.

"I have never seen anything like it," said Sarki Tamang, 18, one of the Nepalese porters who dug his way out of the snow."There was a sudden loud noise and within seconds we were blown to the side. We were lucky. The others disappeared."

Stolzenberg, an instructor with the prestigious Ecole Nationale de Ski et d'Alpinisme in the French Alpine town of Chamonix, liked to spend his autumns climbing in the Himalayas.

On October 3, having flown to Kathmandu five days earlier, the Stolzenbergs set off with Grégory Flematti, Bruno Chardin, Bernard Constantin, François Judei and Jean-Paul Minette for the summit of Kanguru.

For these experienced climbers it should have been a relatively easy climb. The snow-covered peak of Kanguru, which has claimed one life since it was first scaled by a German expedition in 1950, was outlined against a blue sky.

They had just under a month between the end of the monsoon season and the start of the winter snow to reach the summit. After seven days' trekking the team established a base camp at 4,250 metres. They planned to spend two weeks getting used to the altitude and setting up further camps at 5,300 and 6,000 metres before making an assault on the peak on October 18.

On October 19 heavy snow began to fall. Wanda Vivequin, a Canadian guide, was leading another group in the area. "The conditions had been perfect and there was absolutely no sign that the weather was changing. I was watching my barometer.

"But on the Wednesday heavy snow began falling, which didn't let up for around 36 hours."

Her group met a distressed French trekker who had been near the area where the avalanches struck. "He was really shaken and ashen-faced and told us that he heard avalanches coming off Kanguru peak in regular intervals."

On October 20, the Stolzenberg team set up their second camp 1,200 metres below the summit. The heavy snow forced them back to the base camp, where Sarki and the other porters, employed to carry loads of up to 35kg for around £4 a day, had remained.

"The team came back down in the afternoon, and as they were tired from the climb and it was snowing most of them were in their tents when the avalanche struck," said Sarki. He and the three other survivors were in the kitchen tent preparing tea for the exhausted climbers when they heard a roaring sound.

"All of a sudden we heard a loud noise and within seconds we were blown to the side of an avalanche," he said.

The avalanche swept the other 18 climbers down a deep gorge. The porters hunted for survivors, but all they could see was a huge expanse of white.

It took the porters about four hours to descend in bare feet. Sarki suffered severe frostbite on his toes and was immediately admitted to hospital.

According to the team from the Himalayan Rescue Association who searched for the bodies for four days, the avalanche dragged the climbers more than 100 metres down the mountain.

"We dug about 3.5 metres at base camp but in the gorge below, where we expect to find the remaining bodies, the snow is about 15 metres deep."

Elizabeth Hawley, who has been monitoring expeditions in Nepal for over four decades, said the French team were experienced mountaineers but clearly did not realise how much snow was falling.

In Nepal's small climbing community, many of the rescue workers lost friends. "At one point I found a rucksack and I was scared that I would find a body next to it so I asked my colleague to keep on digging for me," said one. "I would hate to see my friends' dead faces."

So far, only one body has been found. The rescue team expects to find more within one week provided the weather improves. If it doesn't they will have to wait until spring before the angry mountain gives up its dead.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005[/quote]

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Merry Andrew
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 08:08 pm
It was on the news on NPR the day after it happened. I heard it. As the fatality toll was only 20, it wasn't deemed a major news 'even' and received no follow-up. After the Indonesia tsunami, the three (count 'em -- three) disastrous hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and the Kashmir earthquake, this seems like a pretty minor disaster.
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Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 08:25 pm
The "categories" are different.
It's not just the "number of deaths" (although each is equally important): There is a difference in "categories." How many avalanches have killed this many people in one event? And, in a particular, specialized group? Somewhat "one of a kind" should make it newsworthy.

[quote]It was the worst ever single loss of life in the mountains and a devastating blow not just to the victims' families in France and Nepal, but to the close-knit global climbing community. [/quote]
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