Nepal earthquake: Chicago woman's son among Mt. Everest climbers trapped after Nepal quake

Sunday, April 26, 2015
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The heavy damage of Saturday's earthquake in Nepal extends to Mount Everest, where the quake killed at least 10 climbers.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The heavy damage of Saturday's earthquake in Nepal extends to Mount Everest, where the quake killed at least 10 climbers, and one man with Chicago ties is among several Americans on the mountain.

It is estimated that there are between 8-10,000 people of Nepalese origin in the Chicago area. Nearly 24 hours after the 7.8 magnitude quake hit, many are still struggling to get news of loved ones, and it is not just the Nepalese waiting for news. Nepal attracts thousands of would-be climbers to Mt. Everest each year.

PHOTOS: Nepal earthquake, inside the aftermath

Late Saturday night, ABC7 Eyewitness News confirmed that among those killed on Mt. Everest is camp medic 28-year-old Marisa Girawong. Between 2010 and 2012 the New Jersey native studied in Chicago at both Malcolm X College and Stroger Hospital, where she completed her physicians' assistant studies.

Girawong was not the only person on Mt. Everest with a Chicago connection. A Chicago woman's son survived the earthquake, but is now trapped on the mountain.

Loretta Land's son Andy is alive Saturday night, but trapped on Mt. Everest, after an avalanche swept the face of the world's tallest mountain following the quake. The 52-year-old hospice nurse is one of the lucky ones.

Preliminary reports say at least ten climbers died, and another 30 were injured after the avalanche plowed into base camp, the sprawling village of climbers, guides and porters where most climbing expeditions prepare to make their summit. The question for the survivors, and for Land, is how they will get down.

"They could starve up there," Loretta Land said. "You can't send helicopters up there because of the avalanches. If they're safe and alive and well (Saturday), they have to get back down and they're at 19,000 feet."

Also waiting for news is Bala Ghimira. The owner of the Nepal House Restaurant, Ghimira is one of thousands of Nepalese residing in the Chicago area. Most of his family however, is still back in Nepal.

"Mostly phone service is not working," Ghimira said.

So far, he has only been able to communicate with his brother and sister-in-law living in Katmandu. There is still no news of his 88-year-old mother, his sister, and other siblings who live in the countryside. Because of the continuing aftershocks the government is asking people to not return home for at least 72 hours, making communication with loved ones all the more difficult.

"It is very scary, very scary right now," he said. "So many friends have their families there. We are very much worried."

Ghimire says his priority right now, in addition to accounting for his family, is to encourage others in Chicago to participate in the relief effort already starting to take shape. To that end, a meeting of local Nepalese organizations is already scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Video from journalist for ABC News Australia Siobhan Heanue: