An avalanche triggered by a massive earthquake in Nepal smashed into a base camp at the foothills of Mount Everest on Saturday, killing at least eight climbers and guides, injuring many and leaving an unknown number missing near the mountain's most dangerous spot, officials said.
Varying reports have given different death tolls but a senior trekking guide said the death toll from the Everest avalanche has climbed to 17 and 61 injured, according to The Associated Press. The number was not immediately confirmed by NBC News.
The avalanche struck between the Khumbu Icefall, a notoriously treacherous rugged area of collapsed ice and snow, and the base camp where most climbing expeditions are, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
An official with Nepal's mountaineering department, Gyanendra Shretha, said the bodies of eight people had been recovered and an unknown number remain missing or injured.
At least one of the dead climbers was identified Saturday as an American and Google engineer, Dan Fredinburg, according to expedition company Jagged Globe.
DevelopingHow to Help Victims of Nepal Earthquakes
David Arvan, 34, from San Francisco, told NBC News that he was visiting Nepal for the first time with his sister and a friend when the earthquake hit. Arvan was just outside of the Everest base camp and had to act quick to avoid being injured in the resulting avalanche.
"My sister and I had to duck under a large boulder to avoid falling rocks from the cliffs above when the quake first hit,” Arvan said. “The whole ground was shaking in all directions, we could barely stand!"
Jelle Veyt told NBC he was just getting back to base camp when suddenly the earth "shook for a couple of seconds — badly.”
"I started running for my life....trying to be in a tent before it hit me," the Belgian climber said, adding that he wasn't thinking about "much" other than running "as fast as I could to the tents" which were only about 200 feet away.
The world's highest mountain is scaled by hundreds every year who brave extreme weather, a hostile terrain and unpredictable avalanches, one of which killed 16 Sherpa guides almost exactly a year ago.
The magnitude-7.8 quake that caused the avalanche struck around noon Saturday about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, almost one year after the deadliest avalanche on record hit Everest killing 16 Sherpa guides on April 18, 2014.