KATHMANDU (AFP) – Nepalese rescuers on Thursday scoured Himalayan hiking routes for more than 100 trekkers who have been out of contact since a snowstorm and avalanche that have killed around 32 people, including foreign tourists and guides.
Local officials said that 24 bodies had been found on the popular Annapurna circuit, while five climbers who were staying at a mountain base camp when it was hit by an avalanche could not be found and were presumed dead.
Three Nepalese yak herders were also killed when severe weather triggered by the tail end of Cyclone Hudhud hit the Himalayan region in central Nepal.
Ganesh Rai, the police official in charge of the effort, said emergency workers had rescued 43 stranded trekkers, but more than 100 others remained out of contact.
Rescuers were searching for two Slovakian mountaineers and three Nepalese guides who went missing after an avalanche struck teams stationed at the base camp of 8,167-metre Mount Dhaulagiri on Tuesday night.
“We are running helicopter missions to try and find them, but we can find no sign of them, we presume they are dead,” said Rai.
“So far we have located 16 bodies in Mustang district in the Annapurna region, but we don’t have a clear picture yet of how many are foreigners since we still need to identify them,” Rai, who is heading the rescue effort, told AFP.
The bodies of four Canadians, two Israelis, one Pole, one Vietnamese, one Indian, one German and 11 Nepalese have been found. The nationality of three others found was unknown, he said.
Among them were at least eight hikers who lost their lives in an avalanche in neighbouring Manang district, according to a local official.
“We have located the bodies of eight people including four Canadians, an Indian, and three Nepalis killed in an avalanche,” district official Devendra Lamichanne told AFP.
Some 168 foreign tourists were registered to hike in the districts and authorities are now trying to track the rest of them down, with efforts hampered by poor telecommunications.
“Many people are unaccounted for – we only register foreign nationals, but several Nepalese could also be caught up in the storm,” Rai said.