An avalanche swept away climbers on a Himalayan peak in Nepal on Sunday, leaving at least nine dead and six others missing, including a Quebec cargiologist, according to officials and a relative.
Isabelle Ouimet said her brother, Dr. Dominique Ouimet of St-Jérôme, Que., is among the half-dozen people who are unaccounted for in the wake of the disaster.
"On the mountain there are several teams, and I didn't know their teams had been hit," Ouimet said. "One of their guides is dead. Another climber is in hospital."
She told CBC's French news service that her brother was on his ninth mountaineering expedition and was trying to beat his altitude record of 6,500 metres, which he achieved in Bolivia. He was also using the expedition to raise money for his hospital, the St-Jérôme Regional Hospital.
"He was using it to pursue his two passions as the same time," Ouimet said.
Mount Manaslu is the eighth-highest mountain in the world, at 8,156 metres.
Ouimet said officials from Canada's Foreign Affairs Department told her a search is underway for her brother and the other missing climbers, but it has paused for the night in Nepal and will resume in a few hours.
At least one other Canadian, Greg Hill from Revelstoke, B.C., survived the avalanche.
"A huge avalanche swept through Camp 3 at 4:45 a.m. on Manaslu, catching lots of people in their sleeping bags, many dead, and injured," Hill wrote on his Facebook page Sunday.
"Luckily our team is fine, and helped with the rescue," he wrote.
'Passion for mountains'
In an interview Wednesday with Radio-Canada, Dominique Ouimet said the expedition at that point was going "well enough." He was suffering from a bout of pharyngitis — an inflammation of the throat — and had descended to base camp from Camp 2 to recover, but was still going to attempt to reach the summit.
Ouimet also said turning his expedition into a fundraising trip had made it an even better undertaking.
"I've had a passion for mountains for several years. It's something that's fairly individual and that's sometimes incomprehensible, but it's an addictive enough passion. And so I said why not unite my personal passion with something useful, something a little more altruistic that goes beyond just one person? And I have to say it's made it a greater experience."
Asked about the risk of catastrophe, he said the myriad safety rules of mountaineering tend to occupy his thoughts more than the chance of something going horrible wrong. "You're very much in the moment, in every little movement, because you're on a glacier and there are crevasses."
Nepalese police official Basanta Bahadur Kuwar said the bodies of a Nepalese guide and a German man have been recovered so far and that rescue pilots have spotted seven other bodies on the slopes of Mount Manaslu in northern Nepal.
Ten other members of the team survived the avalanche but many were injured and are being flown to hospitals by rescue helicopters, Kuwar said.
The other missing climbers include five French nationals and an Italian, according to the U.K. Daily Telegraph, quoting Dipendra Paude of Nepal's Tourism Ministry.
The identities of the victims were still being confirmed.
The avalanche hit the climbers at a camp at 7,000 metres as they were preparing to head toward the summit.
It is currently the beginning of Nepal's autumn mountaineering season.
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