SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian couple survived for six hours buried under ice and snow following an avalanche in Tibet only for the husband to die after descending the mountain, reports said Thursday.
Wendy Higgins and her company director husband Dean, from Adelaide, were camping on the slopes of Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, with another two Australians when disaster struck on Tuesday.
While details remain sketchy, the pair were reportedly buried by snow with the 60-year-old husband managing to dig them out after six hours.
They then spent eight hours battling to reach safety, at which point Dean Higgins died, reportedly "as a result of altitude sickness, poor health and age".
Julie Mahony, a family friend, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she had spoken to Wendy Higgins about her ordeal.
"They were under the snow for about six hours and Dean dug them out of the snow," she said.
"They had to get down the mountain to safety and that took approximately eight hours.
"We're not exactly sure what happened, but he was alive until they got down the bottom."
Chinese state media said three local porters died in the avalanche with sources within the Dingri local government saying the group "entered a restricted area on the mountain without permission".
Mount Everest is known in China as Qomolangma - mother goddess of the snows in Tibetan.
More than 300 people have died on Everest since it was first conquered by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.