Nepal is winding down rescue efforts that are reaching the final stage in the search for survivors from last Tuesday’s storm. It has been five long and hectic days, with both the Nepalese army and private helicopters alike searching tirelessly for survivors of the avalanches that hit popular tourist mountain passes on Tuesday. After this, the focus will be more on recovering dead bodies still buried in the snow. Also, communication lines need to be improved, so that those affected by the tragedy can be kept better informed. Presently, there are three different lists of both deceased and those who survived. One list is being run by the army, another by the home ministry, and the third by Nepal’s trekking association. However, in the interests of efficiency, authorities said that they wanted to create just one list. Nepal’s government also admitted to failing to issue a warning about the storm, and has promised to work on a new, early warning system.
So far, the death toll has risen to 43 people, with an additional 175 injured, and with more than 40 people still missing. There were dead from numerous different countries, including Nepal, Japan, India, Vietnam, Canada, Israel, Slovakia, and Poland. Almost 400 people have been saved by rescue efforts, with nearly 300 who were taken down to local villages and towns. A lot of those people who did manage to reach villages are being treated medically for injuries sustained from the storm. There are still dozens who have not yet made it to villages, and remain in isolated mountain huts. Many of those that survived the ordeal now have to prepare to deal with the full impact of their injuries, including cases of frostbite severe enough that amputation is required.
Nepal’s massive rescue efforts are reaching their final stage now, and this has put a strain on one of the poorest countries in Asia. The storm that hit was described by one expert as the worst in a decade, with snowfall amounts of 1.8 meters (almost 6 feet) in a period of twelve hours, and the danger did not simply pass with the storm. Some people who survived the initial storm got into trouble days later when they tried to descend down the trail, which spans across an enormous area, only to find that the snow was very deep, complicating matters. It is all too easy to get disoriented under such conditions. Even those rescuers who are on foot often have to hike long distances through waist-deep snow and treacherous conditions.
Some of the survivors have been able to make it back home, including seven Israelis who arrived back to their home country earlier today. The Hadassah Medical Organization set up a team to fly to Nepal and bring the Israelis back. After landing in Nepal, the team went to Kathmandu Hospital to assess the conditions and injuries of the survivors. The team decided to evacuate seven of them, using a private jet provided by an unnamed Israeli businessman. Some of the survivors who specifically suffered from frostbite will need a long time to recover in rehabilitation and therapy. All of the Israelis who survived the ordeal would require some therapy, and even though they had received quality care while in Nepal, they were extremely relieved to finally be able to communicate with people who spoke their own language.
Nepal’s rescue efforts have just about reached their final stage. The next phase would be recovery of bodies, which will also be a process that is both time-consuming and costly, as well as potentially dangerous. Communication has not been very strong, as evidenced by the conflicting reports of confirmed dead and injured. However, the one thing that all of these various reports consistently reveal is that the death toll has kept climbing higher over time. The more details are revealed about the impact of this surprise snowstorm and the avalanches that it caused, the more this incident appears to be the worst mountaineering tragedy that this nation has ever seen.
By Charles Bordeau