Witnesses to Everest avalanche: 'I knew I had to survive'

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) -- At least 17 people were killed and 61 injured when an avalanche set off by Saturday's massive Nepal earthquake swept down the Himalayas.

The snow and ice ripped through key Mt. Everest climbing routes and tore into base camp, the nylon mountaineering city that blossoms every year at the base of the world's highest peak.

On Sunday, the first group of survivors was flown in to Kathmandu; most of the 15 people are injured Sherpa guides.

Two spoke to The Associated Press:


PEMBA SHERPA, 43, Mt. Everest guide:

"I was resting in my tent when the earthquake hit. I heard a big noise and the next thing I know I was swept away by the snow. I must have been swept almost 200 meters. I lost consciousness.

"When I regained consciousness, I was in a tent surrounded by foreigners. I did not know what happened or where I was."

He said the toll on Everest was sure to rise: "There are still many people who are still missing on the mountain. There were several tents buried by the snow, several blown away."


BHIM BAHADUR KHATRI, 35, cook for Mt. Everest climbing team:

"I was cooking for my team in the meal tent when the earthquake hit. We all rushed out to the open and the next moment a huge wall of snow just piled on me.

"I managed to dig out of what could easily have been my grave. I wiggled and used my hands as claws to dig as much as I could. I was suffocating, I could not breathe. But I knew I had to survive.

"I dug a few more feet until I was out of the snow and could breathe. I looked around and saw the tents all torn, crushed and many people injured. I had lived, but lost many of my friends."

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