Horror in the Himalayas claims Israeli lives

  • Nepal - Agam
Three Israelis confirmed dead, a fourth death suspected, seven injured and MDA reports today that some 50 are still missing after Thursday’s massive avalanche in Nepal. Israeli dead and injured returned today. See who died, how it all happened and what’s being done for those still missing. All but one of the missing Israelis are believed to be safe but have yet to contact their families or authorities. Read how Israel mobilised their rescue efforts…
by ANT KATZ | Oct 19, 2014


The Hadassah Medical Organization sent a special rescue flight to repatriate the injured hikers, an HMO spokesman said, while an unnamed Israeli businessman also reportedly donated his private plane to fly the injured back to Israel.

The deceased are: Nadav Shoham, Agam Luria, 23, and Lt Tamar Ariel, 24. (the first Israeli dati (religious) woman to become an Israeli Air Force Combat Navigator.

 MDA - Nepal - HOME

RIGHT: One of the three Israelis to die in the avalanches caused by the Nepal blizzard this week was Tamar Ariel – pictured here with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2012 after completing her pilots training course.

Captain Ariel was the first Israeli dati (religious) woman to become an Israeli Air Force Combat Navigator, She hailed from the Masu’ot Yitzhak moshav in the south near Ashdod and Ashkelon. She had been trekking with a friend in the Annapurna section of the Himalayas, a route popular with backpackers in northern Nepal


Six of the injured Israelis suffered from various degrees of frostbite and the vision of one of the repatriated injured was impaired. Magen David Adom EMS evacuated the injured to Hadassah University Medical Centre in Jerusalem and to Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Hashomer.

The recovery team was headed by Prof Avi Rivkind, head of the Hadassah-University Medical Centre’s trauma and emergency department, and Dr Julius Golander, a paediatric cardiologist, who helped repatriate a two-week old new-born suffering from a cardiac defect, not connected to the avalanche.


Nepal - Nadav

LEFT: Nadav Shoham, from Mitzpe Hoshayiah, also died in the Nepalese tragedy


After landing in Nepal, the team evaluated the Israeli casualties in a Kathmandu Hospital and decided to evacuate seven of them. Some of the injured will require prolonged therapy and rehabilitation for frostbite.

Teams of surgeons, other physicians and support personnel are deployed at Hadassah to assist in the evaluation and care of the injured.


Nepal - Agam

RIGHT: Agam Luria, one of the three Israelis killed in a storm while hiking in Nepal


Rivkind told Israel Channel 2 that the injured Israelis were in good spirits and happy with the treatment they were receiving in Nepal.

Fourth missing woman suspected dead

Concern is also rising that another Israeli tourist may have died in the disaster: Michal Gili Chierkowsky, 43, from Givatayim.

Chierkowsky's family told the media Saturday night that they are "praying for a miracle," and that information regarding her fate indicates that she is trapped at 5,000 meters high along the mountain pass without communications equipment or access to rescue facilities.


Nepal - Annapurna South Face

LEFT: Annapurna South Face – see detailed schematic below


The total confirmed death toll from the blizzard that engulfed trekkers on Nepal's popular Annapurna trail in the Himalayas had risen to 39, police and army sources said on Saturday. "We have spotted nine new bodies today," said Govinda Pathak, police head in the district of Mustang.

"We could not retrieve them because of bad weather conditions and snowfall. I can confirm that the toll is 39 now."

The nine victims whose bodies were spotted Saturday were most likely Nepalese porters, according to an official with the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal.

The authorities rescued 60 more people on Saturday, when the army deployed troops on a ground search, taking the total number saved to 371. Survivors of the avalanche say the storm caught them completely off guard.

Rescuers are hoping that most of those still unaccounted for, including between 39 and 50 Israelis depending on various sources, are still taking shelter in isolated mountain huts, a government official said.

Channel 2 reported that all 50 Israelis – with the exception of Charkesky – who were on the mountain have been located and brought to Kathmandu. Another 40 Israelis in Nepal have not yet contacted their families, but they are not believed to be in any danger.

MDA, however, announced this morning that “50 Israelis were still missing” although it is not clear if they were on the mountain at the time.

Catastrophic cause

Saturday was the fourth day of organised searches since snowstorms, triggered by the tail-end of a cyclone, erupted, sweeping through large parts of the Himalayas. The 39 confirmed fatalities by on Saturday night, say Nepalese police and army sources, included nineteen tourists.

Two Israeli trekkers trapped on a Himalayan pass that had been inaccessible since the blizzard struck the Annapurna mountain were rescued overnight Friday, as emergency teams continued their search for survivors.

One Israeli woman, Maya Ora, told Channel 2 a harrowing tale of walking in snow that was a meter-and-a-half high, and of seeing bodies along the trail. She spoke of one friend who was trapped, whom she helped extract from the snow.

 “We saw our friends dying in the snow,” she said.

The Israeli insurance company Harel has conducted its own rescue operation, evacuating some 60 Israeli hikers from stranded areas in the region that have been cut off from access.

MDA Delegation

Magen David Adom also sent a medical delegation headed by Dr Rafi Strugo, head of its medical branch, and senior paramedic Asi Dabilansky to Kathmandu, where they examined the Israeli injured and prepared them for their flight home. More MDA staff and equipment were later dispatched.

They said all the injured suffered serious psychological trauma and were happy to encounter experts who spoke their language, even though the local teams gave them excellent care.


Twelve local helicopters were pressed into action on Saturday to drop searchers in otherwise inaccessible spots, and Nepalese soldiers fanned out in different directions along the 240 km. route. It was the most intensive effort yet to find survivors of one of the country’s worst mountain disasters, which struck at a time of year when the weather is usually calm and clear.

Thorong La, the highest pass along the Annapurna trek, is at an altitude of 5,416 m., but the route does not require mountaineering experience. Eyewitnesses said many victims perished trying to descend the pass in freezing, whiteout conditions.

In Kathmandu, survivors recounted their brush with death during the blizzard. Munchang Lama, 35, a guide for two Israeli women, found himself marooned while he was pitching a tent for them.

“Suddenly it started raining and I took shelter between two rocks,” said Lama, who was rescued on Friday, suffering from frostbite and minor injuries. “Next morning I was not able to walk because my leg was stuck in snow,” he added. “I realized I would only be able to get out when the snow melted.”

Israelis’ supplies kept him alive for 48 hours

Lama said he was able to keep up his strength by munching on nuts, chocolates and a banana he found in the women’s bags. “This kept me alive for 48 hours,” said Lama, adding that he did not know what became of his clients.


MDA - Nepal - unnamed injured - pic MDA

RIGHT: Two unnamed injured Israelis returning this morning - picture by MDA


The government has admitted failing to issue any warning that the weather would take a sudden turn for the worse, and has promised to set up an early-warning system.

This week’s incident was the second major mountain disaster in Nepal this year after an avalanche killed 16 guides on Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, in April.

The home ministry told officials in the five affected districts to trace missing people who could have taken shelter from the storm in hamlets, temples or other isolated spots.

At least 45 Nepalese families have approached officials in the districts of Mustang, Manang and Dolpa for help tracking down their missing family members who worked as porters and guides.

 “The problem is that any Nepali is free to start operating as a porter and they do not require a license,” said Keshav Pandey of Nepal’s Trekking Agencies Association. “According to our estimate more than 85 Nepalis are still stuck.”

Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains. Income from tourism, including permit fees from trekkers, who made up more than 12% of its 800,000 tourists in 2013, accounts for 4% of its economy.

NEPAL - Annapurna South FULL 

Schematic depiction of the deadly Annapurna South Face
that claimed so many lives last week



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