- Associated Press - Monday, September 24, 2012

KATMANDU, Nepal — Mountaineers who survived a pre-dawn avalanche high on the world’s eighth-tallest peak say they waited an hour for sunlight, and then saw pieces of tents and bodies of victims strewn around them on the snow.

Veteran Italian climber Silvio Mondinelli said he and a fellow mountaineer were asleep when they heard a violent sound and felt their tent start to slide.

“It was only a few seconds and we did not know what happened, but we had slid more than 200 meters (650 feet),” Mondinelli told The Associated Press on Monday. “All we wanted was for it to stop.”

The avalanche hit at about 4 a.m. Sunday while more than two dozen climbers were sleeping in their tents at Camp 3 on Mount Manaslu in northern Nepal.


At least nine climbers were killed and six are believed still missing.

Helicopters flew over the slopes on Monday to search for the missing mountaineers as climbers and guides searched the slopes on foot. Rescuers brought down eight bodies — four French, one German, one Italian, one Spaniard and one Nepali guide — and were trying to retrieve the ninth from the 7,000-meter (22,960-foot) area where the avalanche struck, police Chief Basanta Bahadur Kuwar said.

Ten climbers survived, but many of them were injured and were flown to hospitals by rescue helicopters.

Three French climbers and two Germans were transported to hospitals in Katmandu on Sunday. Two Italians were flown there on Monday — Mondinelli, who has climbed the world’s 14 highest peaks, and fellow mountaineer Christian Gobbi.

Mondinelli said another Italian climber and their Sherpa guide were sleeping in another tent and were buried by the avalanche and died.

Gobbi said they could not see at first when they looked out of their torn tent because it was pitch dark and they had no light.

“We found someone’s boots and put them on,” he said.

When the sun rose an hour later, they saw parts of tents scattered across the snow, along with people who had been killed or injured.

They said they were able to assist the injured with the help of Sherpa guides who came from lower camps. Those who could walk made their way down to the base camp while those who were injured were picked up by helicopters.

Italian, German and French teams were on the mountain, with a total of 231 climbers and guides, but not all were at the higher camps hit by the avalanche.

Nepal Mountaineering Department chief Balkrishan Ghimire identified the eight recovered bodies as Fabrice Priez, Philippe Lucien Bos, Catherine Marie Andree Richard and Ludovic Paul Nicolas Challeat of France; German Christian Mittermeyer; Italian Alberto Magliano; Spaniard Marti Roirg Gasull; and Nepali Dawa Dorji.

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