This isn't your everyday news. In a frightening turn of events, a University of Toronto professor is missing after an avalanche hit the Himalayas while his group was still in the mountains attempting a climb. Professor Peter Wittek was part of a six-person team when the avalanche occurred, sweeping him away as he was apparently resting in a tent. A search and rescue mission has been launched by Indian authorities.

According to CBC, Wittek was attempting to climb up Trisul, which is a mountain over 7,000 metres tall in the Indian state of Uttarakhand.

In an email sent to Narcity, U of T media relations manager Ken McGuffin confirmed the incident and stated that they are working with their university contacts in India.

"We are in touch with his family and continue to monitor the situation actively," says McGuffin. "We are offering support to our faculty and staff and to students of Prof. Wittek."

Wittek was reportedly the only one swept away by the avalanche.

According to Global News, Wittek's brother Gergo Oberfrank says another person was struck by the avalanche but he or she was able to be dug out, surviving the incident.

"Only my brother is missing," Oberfrank said, per CTV News. "My brother was in the worst place that was possible in that moment."

CTV reports that a search had been mounted but has been hampered by poor weather. 

Wittek has plenty of experience as a mountaineer, but the Mount Trisul area was described as "highly avalanche-prone" by Swati Bhadoriya, district magistrate of Chamoli, as quoted by CTV: "This is considered one of the toughest peaks in the world. It requires a lot of expertise."

"I still don't really want to accept it ... it's a very difficult thing to survive on a mountain," Wittek's friend and colleague Tomas Babej told the CBC.

Friends of Wittek, according to the CBC article, were told he was inside a tent on the mountain before the avalanche occurred around 7 p.m. on Sunday evening.

Since 2018, Wittek has been an assistant professor at the U of T and is renowned as one of the world's leading experts in quantum-enhanced machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Indian authorities have warned that it could take up to three days before they actually reach the location where Wittek was apparently last seen.


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