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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Former student shares story of surviving the Mt. Everest avalanche

Danielle Banks, the 22-year-old Texas A&M graduate who survived the avalanche on Mt. Everest caused by the earthquake in Nepal, now awaits her trip back to Texas at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu.

Banks is set to leave for Texas Friday, but in the meantime she is speaking out about her experience via limited Internet access.

Banks, who was in Nepal to serve as a volunteer with a Human Rights Organization called Samrakshak Samuha Nepal, left the Everest Base Camp just 30 minutes before the quake with her friend, Olivia Lewis. The two met only a week prior and were hiking unguided when Lewis developed Acute Mountain Sickness at the camp, Banks said.

“She had a moderate case but couldn’t be evacuated because of snowy weather,” Banks said. “So after spending the night at Base Camp at Everest ER we made our way back to Gorak Shep in hopes of reaching the next hospital in Pheriche, but that never happened because [an hour and a half] later the earthquake hit, causing complete chaos.”

Banks said seeing the earthquake and avalanche happen was shocking.  

“At first everyone was confused as to what was going on,” Banks said. “The ground shook vigorously and we all just looked at each other with, ‘What was that?’ faces. After realizing it was an earthquake, we all ran for safety and seconds later snow filled the entire town of Gorak Shep, completely wiping out the phone lines and covering hikers.”

Their rescue was difficult, Banks said, because rescuers tried to help people with immediate needs first.

“Pheriche was completely destroyed by the time we managed to get down,” Banks said. “Evacuations were occurring left and right to people of more need, so we were told to go to [Namche Bazaar], which is about a two-day hike.”

By order of the Nepal Army, however, all lodges were closed along the way to Namche Bazaar due to potential danger to aftershocks, Banks said. 

“So instead of stopping after about six hours of hiking we ended up hiking nearly 10 hours with Olivia being sick,” Banks said. “But we finally found a lodge that had set up a huge tarp outside of their lodge and let us sleep there.”

The next morning, they hiked the rest of the way to Namche Bazaar, Banks said. There, they made it to the medical clinic within the village and were able to arrange a medical evacuation for Lewis.   

“The evac first took us to Lukla where we waited for hours for our second helicopter,” Banks said. “While waiting we sat and watched as they brought body after body down via helicopter. It was devastating.”

Banks said she feels very fortunate to have survived the experience.
“Hearing other peoples stories here just break my heart,” Banks said. “I think I was lucky to have been in the mountains when the earthquake hit because there was not nearly as much weak infrastructure to crash down — just the danger of rockslides and avalanches.”

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