Sean Wisedale – Mt Everest expedition 2015 – Himalayan earthquake triggers massive avalanche through Base Camp
Yesterday at 12.15pm the shockwaves of a heavy earthquake hit Mt Everest Base Camp. Mountains and glaciers shook all around us. It was terrifying. From the neighbouring mountain Pumori an avalanche was triggered. A massive ice slab sheared and thundered into Base Camp. It lifted rocks and boulders ahead of it, slamming into hundreds of tents in the center of the camp and spilling over onto the Khumbu glacier on the other side.
Many cook staff and climbers were in their tents at the time. Fortunately our camp was protected by a high ridge. Still, we were hit by a hundred meter high plume of crystallised ice about a minute after the quake. We all dived into our safest and most shielded tents. The horror was unimaginable as it went completely dark and we huddled around hoping not to be crushed alive. The tent held up. A minute later it had past but we all knew there were going to be casualties. Unsure of whether another quake or aftershock would hit or whether the glacier would open up beneath our feet we waited for a while. The weather conditions were bad then – heavy snow began to fall and visibility of the surrounding peaks was nil. Everywhere around us it was unstable. Avalanches continued to fall.
We then went out and tried to assist the wounded. Many climbers were not in the camps that had taken the biggest hit. Thank goodness they were up at Camp 1 or Camp 2 or there would have been more dead and injured. Climbers and camp staff were being extracted from tents, snow and debris and taken into any place of refuge. Base Camp was the site of post Armageddon.
We handed over all our pain killers and as much medical supplies as we had and could. Limited numbers of medical staff had pitched in and were assisting those who were wounded. An ICU tent was set up and another tent for those less critical. Most of the wounds were head wounds from flying stones that had come through from the force of the avalanche. They carried the wounded in and scrounged amongst the debris to try and extract jackets and sleeping bags to keep them warm into the night.
The smell of leaking gas bottles wafted all around the camp. Everywhere the icy routes were blood stained underfoot. There are at least 13 fatalities, maybe more – another 60 injured. Many have been evacuated from the camp. We are still operational (by incredible luck) and assisting where we can. Helicopters have been flying in all day to evacuate the wounded. We are thankful to be safe and alive. Even now there are still small after shocks going off around us. We are unsure of what we should do – leave or stay – we haven’t made that decision yet.
(From Sean on his satellite phone this morning. Please allow for errors in transcription due to poor signal quality)