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Helicopter evacuates injured Everest climbers

A helicopter took off from Katmandu on Saturday in a bid to rescue two Americans and four other injured climbers trapped by treacherous weather at a makeshift tent hospital on Mount Everest.
Canadian mountaineer Pierre Bourdeau from Montreal, 40, one of the survivors of an avalanche at Mount Everest base camp, talks to journalists after being evacuated to Katmandu, Nepal, Binod Joshi / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A helicopter evacuated injured climbers from Mount Everest on Saturday, two days after they were hit by an avalanche on the world's highest peak, rescuers said.

The helicopter safely brought back two Americans, two Canadians, and two Nepalese Sherpa guides to the capital Katmandu, where they were being treated for their injuries. A seventh injured climber, a Polish national, was not among those evacuated.

They had been stranded at the base camp since Thursday, when a powerful avalanche swept down the slopes.

No one was killed in the avalanche, which plowed through the first of four camps set up between Everest's base camp and the mountain's 29,035-foot summit.

'Lucky to be alive'
Snow and high winds abated sufficiently Saturday for a rescue helicopter to land at the base, where it picked up American climbers James Bach and Jason Barilla and Canadians Jowan Gauthier and Pierre Bourdeau.

"I was lucky to be alive ... I don't know how I survived," Pierre Bourdeau told The Associated Press in Katmandu recalling the terrifying experience.

"When the first debris hit me on my head I thought I was dead," he said. "But I managed to get back on my feet and wait for other climbers to rescue us."

The avalanche threw him 330 feet from his tent but he managed to keep his head covered with his hands. He said he has some broken bones in his left hand.

Doctors at a hospital in Katmandu examined the four Western climbers who all suffered possible broken bones in their hands and feet, officials said. One Sherpa suffered a broken back.

Climbers said the avalanche destroyed about 40 tents and buried food, oxygen bottles and other supplies.

Treacherous conditions
Twenty-three expeditions have been attempting to scale Everest this spring amid treacherous conditions.

Michael O'Brien, 39, of Seattle, fell to his death May 1 at the Khumbu Icefall as he and his brother Chris, 32, were returning to base camp. Canadian Sean Egan, 63, died on the mountain April 29 after an apparent heart attack.

Since New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first conquered Everest on May 29, 1953, more than 1,400 people have scaled the mountain. About 180 have died on its unpredictable slopes.