Nepalese rescue workers were set to continue their search for survivors of a blizzard and avalanche in the Annapurna mountain range three days ago that killed at least 25 trekkers and guides, the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal said.
The search was suspended in the Manang and Mustang districts last night because of poor visibility and should resume this morning, the association said on its website.
Citizens from Israel, Canada, Vietnam and India were among the dead, along with 11 Nepali guides, Gangaram Pant, chief executive officer of the association said yesterday by telephone. About 70 people were still missing, he said. At least 117 people had been rescued and there were about 200 people in the area at the time of the disaster, Pant said.
Citizens from Israel, Canada, Vietnam and India were among the dead, along with 11 Nepali guides.
The avalanche on the popular mountain circuit that offers views of the tallest peaks of the Himalayas is probably the deadliest accident in almost a century of mountaineering and highlights the risks taken by adventure-seekers and Sherpas who take affluent clients up some of the world’s most treacherous slopes. In April, an avalanche on Mount Everest claimed the lives of as many as 16 Sherpas.
The incident occurred after a group of trekkers attempted to descend a steep slope on the evening of Oct. 14, seeking to exit a pass before a blizzard intensified, said Prakash Adhikari, chief executive of Himalayan Rescue Association, a non-profit organization that provides medical support to trekkers.
They were climbing down from Thorong La, a pass located about 18,000 feet (5,846 meters) above sea level, to a place called Muktinath at 12,000 feet, when heavy snowfall and a resulting avalanche blocked their path, Adhikari said.
Shelter in shack
“Many people got stuck as they were unable to walk any further,” Adhikari, whose organization is also involved in the rescue operations, said in an interview.
A smaller group of about 20 people who chose to stay on the pass and take shelter in a shack during the blizzard, survived, he said.
Rescuers from the Nepali army were working with volunteer guides, and three helicopters were involved in the search operation yesterday, Pant said.
The 128-mile (205-kilometer) horseshoe-shaped trek is one of the most popular in Nepal and draws almost 40,000 people each year, from experienced climbers to novices, according to backpacker.com. One reason for the popularity is the cost, budget climbers can complete the trek for less than $500, according to the website.
The freak blizzard was thought to be caused by a cyclone that hit India’s southeastern coast last week, the Weather Channel reported, citing forecasters.
Baburam Bhandari, the chief government administrator for the area, wasn’t available for comment.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences to the Canadians who died, in a message on his Twitter feed. Three Israeli citizens were killed in the incident, and five more were hospitalized, the country’s foreign ministry said in a text message.
In a separate incident, five trekkers were missing after an avalanche hit Mount Dhaulagiri, the Associated Press reported yesterday, citing Nepal’s mountaineering department.