MONTREAL - The anxiety of two Canadian families waiting for word of loved ones unreachable after a devastating avalanche in the mountains of Nepal came to an end early Thursday morning in the simplest of fashions—a Facebook message.
“Thank you to everyone for all the kind words and prayers, we are safe,” wrote Virginia Schwartz, a 37-year-old trekker from Pontiac, Que., who had been travelling in the region with her 32-year-old friend, Ottawa’s Jane Van Criekingen.
Out of contact since Tuesday’s storm dropped massive amounts of snow and kicked off an unseasonable avalanche, the two women had provided the sign of life that nearly three dozen other Canadian families are now awaiting, according to a list compiled by the Star.
They are from Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and a host of smaller cities that dot the Canadian landscape. Some are young and travelling with friends from around the world. Some are on organized tours. Others are married and have anxious children waiting for a sign of life.
Not getting word yet from hikers believed to have been in the vicinity when the storm hit could be as meaningless as a sign that Internet connections 3,000 metres in the sky are still shaky or that surviving trekkers have scrambled along their routes in search of lodging rather than rush to the nearest Internet cafe.
Schwartz explained in her Facebook post that she and Van Criekingen were trekking out of what is considered to be the avalanche danger zone and taking a different route that should have them reach the town of Pokhara in several days.
Word also came that Montrealer Charles de Courval, who had been travelling with two other men in hardest-hit area, are also safe.
“The group took refuge in a little village. They’re safe and sound, but the route was destroyed,” one of de Courval’s friends, Annie Rodrigue wrote on Facebook. Word came at about 1 a.m. Thursday.
“They are in the village of Koto for those who want to see where that is,” wrote Mathieu Chiasson, another friend. “It’s in an area that was hit hard.”
The Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal, which is coordinating rescue efforts in the districts affected by the avalanche, reported Thursday 117 stranded trekkers from the Manang and Mustang districts of the Annapurna region have been rescued.
Among the 77 people rescued from the Nar-Phu and Tilicho Lake were three Canadians who had been touring with the Nepal Hidden Treks and Expedition company. The Canadians were the only ones not to be identified by name or passport number, according to a list published by the rescue coordinators Thursday morning,
But there have also been additional dead bodies discovered in the avalanche zone, meaning that for those without word of family or friends from Nepal, the silence can only amplify the fears.
The Nepalese rescue agency said that the additional dead bodies that have been discovered, include those of at least six foreign travellers, one Nepalese individual and others that have not yet been identified.
Montreal’s La Presse reports that a Canadian tour guide, Sylvie Marois, of Montreal, is among those who have been killed in the avalanche.
There is also concern about the whereabouts of 33-year-old Genevieve Adam from Quebec City. Radio-Canada, speaking to Adam’s uncle, said that the young woman’s group was taking shelter in a tent when the avalanche hit and there is dwindling hope that she will be found alive.