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K2 survivor: Companions all dead

5 August 08 15:55 GMT

The last known survivor of a mountaineering disaster on the world's second highest peak has reached base camp, saying his companions are dead.

Italian Marco Confortola is being cared for by a rescue party and waiting for a helicopter to reach them on K2.

Eleven climbers died after an ice fall swept away fixed ropes on the 8,611m (28,240 ft) peak in Pakistan on Friday.

Some fell to their deaths, others froze, and some went missing in the freezing high altitude.

"I now realise that they're all dead, they're all dead," the 37-year-old climber said of his missing companions.

Mr Confortola was the last of about 22 climbers involved in the disaster to be accounted for. The 11 still missing are presumed dead.

"I'm at base camp. I'm truly happy, to be here finally and to be alive," Mr Confortola was quoted as saying after speaking by satellite telephone to the Italian mountaineering website www.montagna.tv.

"Now I just want to take off my shoes, since my feet are hurting something awful," said the climber, who is suffering from frostbite.

See route to climbing K2

Pakistan has listed the 11 dead as three South Koreans, two Nepalis, two Pakistanis and climbers from France, Ireland, Serbia and Norway.

Mr Confortola was brought down after four nights on the mountain by a rescue party consisting of an American climber and Pakistani high-altitude porters.

Pakistan tourism ministry official Shaukat Zaman said that the climber was out of danger.

"He will stay at the base camp for a night, and the army's pilots will fly helicopters on Wednesday morning to rescue him if the weather has improved there," he said.

Two frostbitten Dutch climbers were taken off the mountain by helicopter on Monday.

One of the rescued Dutchmen, Wilco van Rooijen, said ropes had been laid in the wrong places which had delayed the ascent.

The ice fall swept away the ropes as the fastest climbers descended, and Mr van Rooijen said some of those stranded higher up on the mountain panicked.

"People were running down but didn't know where to go, so a lot of people were lost on the mountain on the wrong side, wrong route and then you have a big problem," Mr van Rooijen told Reuters news agency from his hospital bed.

He said he was screaming for people to work together, but many of them failed to react, apparently locked in their own personal struggle to survive.

Among the 11 listed as dead is Gerard McDonnell, from Ireland.

Friend Pat Falvey said the climber's family "are holding up well and are very proud of Ger's achievement and are still in total shock in relation to the fact that he may not be coming back".

He said they did not expect to retrieve Mr McDonnell's body from such a high altitude.

K2 lies near Pakistan's northern border with China. It is regarded by mountaineers as more challenging to conquer than Mount Everest, the world's highest peak.

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