A Vietnamese woman took to Facebook Saturday to recount how she and other trekkers had miraculously survived the fatal avalanche and blizzard that killed more than 30 people in Nepal three days earlier.
"I have been dubbed “the luckiest girl” by many for being able to remain among the living after the catastrophic disaster," Vo Thi My Linh, 25, said in a lengthy note titled “Survive after a blizzard” under a Facebook account name “Va Li.”
The lucky survivor confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper by telephone the same day that she is “safe and sound,” adding most of her friends had believed she was the only alleged Vietnamese victim of the disaster, as reported by AFP.
“I was temporarily blind for a while because I wasn’t wearing sunglasses when I was on the mountain, which is too close to the sun,” Linh said in the note, which has generated more than 1,700 likes and counting.
“My eyes are recovered today, though they remain a little red and hurt.”
Into the storm
Linh said in her Facebook note that she started the trekking trip to the Thorung La Pass on the Annapurna Circuit mountain range in central Nepal with two of her friends from Russia and Indonesia on October 6.
The Russian man then decided to quit after two days as he caught a flu.
Linh and her Indonesian friend continued the trek and decided not to hire local guides and porters to save money.
They reached the height of 4,833 meters on Monday.
On that night, snow started to fall but no one thought it could be a sign for the worst disaster of their life.
On Tuesday morning, the two joined a group of around 200 trekkers but Linh soon lagged behind them and her friend, and eventually got lost.
“From 8:00 am, it started snowing heavily, then came windstorms. I tried to catch up with the group but failed eventually because my gloves and shoes got wet. My hands and feet were frozen,” Linh wrote.
The Vietnamese managed to arrive at a teahouse where there were about 50 trekkers hiding around noon.
The trekkers waited for around two hours but the weather kept worsening, while they could not hire horse or helicopter to get down the avalanche-hit mountain.
At 3:00 pm, a Nepalese man arrived and said he would lead people down the mountain for a US$60 fee per person.
Some 30 trekkers paid and followed the local man, while Linh and other 20 people decided to stay, thinking the harsh weather could kill them.
“With such a horrible storm out there, you could live for three days if you stay here, but could die in a second otherwise,” Linh recalled what she told people in the teahouse.
Ate and…defecated in the house
Sheltering themselves in the teahouse, Linh and other people had to sit and lean on each other to sleep because “the floor was too small and wet.”
During the night, people usually woke each other up to make sure “no one would ever die in their sleep.”
“We had to pee and defecate in front of each other since we would die doing so outside, where it was under 10 degrees Celsius,” Linh wrote.
Fortunately, the storm subsided and sunlight started shining on Wednesday morning, enabling the trekkers to start their journey down.
“I could not remember how many corpses we had to step over on my way down the mountain,” Linh wrote, noting that they did rescue another trekker by giving him a sleeping bag.
“[The bag] would enable him to remain alive when rescuers come,” she explained.
Linh finally reunited with her friend, who was already safe, when the survived trekkers reached a village at the mountain base at 5:00 pm.
Hopefully no Vietnamese died
The Nepal avalanche and blizzard made headline in Vietnam as it has been reported that at least one Vietnamese national is among the deceased victims.
Ganga Ram Pant, chief executive officer of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal told Tuoi Tre by phone on Thursday that at least three Vietnamese lost their lives in the tragic disaster.
But Linh asserted in her Facebook note that the information is unverified.
Linh said she only knows a Vietnamese man named Phong who sheltered with her at the teahouse but couldn’t ask his contact because he was very weak after the accident.
“I hope that reports of Vietnamese trekkers died in the disaster are false,” she said.
“Many people, including the police, told me that I am the only Vietnamese to trek the Thorung La Pass at that time.”
The survivor added that the number of deaths must be higher than so far reported, according to photos she took on the way down.
Should people go trekking?
At the end of her note, Linh said she would definitely say “yes”, if asked whether people should still go trekking.
“Life is full of bad things. People sometimes find their happiness after seeing a flower blossoming on rocks during their trekking, and realize how beautiful this life still is,” Linh expressed.
“But a beautiful photo could cost your life. So, the most important thing is to know what you really want.”
Linh quit her job at a Ho Chi Minh City-based bank in June to start “going and discovering,” and had visited India before the Nepal trip.