‘Huge disaster’: Hikers around Mt. Everest run for lives, treat injured

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World News

By Greg Botelho

CNN

(CNN) — Jon Reiter is no stranger to Mount Everest — its world-record height, its prestige, its challenges.

And its dangers.

He learned that again shortly before noon Saturday, after a monster 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. It not only rattled cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara, but caused avalanches in and around Everest and nearby peaks.

Afterward, Reiter was safe but shaken by the devastation. He told his wife Susan about his putting one dead person in a sleeping bag and zipping it up, while doing his best to help others fighting for their lives.

“It’s been a really rough day,” Susan Reiter told CNN. “Jon’s been comforting injured people that he doesn’t think will survive.”

While Nepalese authorities have said that the massive quake killed hundreds, it was not immediately clear how many fatalities were near Everest or the many other mountains in the regions that draw hikers from around the world.

But, from social media posts and eyewitness accounts, it did soon become evident that these trails and base camps got hit hard by the quake and the havoc it caused.

One mountaineer, Alex Gavan, tweeted that he ran for his life from his tent.

“Huge disaster,” he added hours later, warning that the death toll could skyrocket if helicopters don’t come quickly to evacuate those injured. “Helped searched and rescued victims through huge debris area. Many dead. Much more badly injured. More to die if not heli asap.”

Another hiker, Carsten Lillelund Pedersen, wrote on Facebook that “a huge avalanche swept over basecamp” that had almost 500 tents, saying he survived hy hiding behind a stone structure. Afterward, the camp’s dining tent was transformed into a makeshift hospital headed by the camp manager, who happens to be a doctor.

And even hours after the biggest quake struck, the threat of more casualties — and the challenge of finding out how high the toll actually is — remained very real.

“On top of the whiteout after the avalanche it has been snowing since last night so it is difficult to see the following avalanches, and there are so many – maybe one every 5 min – that I have stopped counting,” Pedersen wrote on Facebook. “This also makes it more difficult to search for people.”

CNN’s Jessica King and Carma Hassan contributed to this report.

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