Snow­storm kills 9 climbers on Nepal peak

Gulf Times - - ASIA/AUSTRALASIA -

Nine mem­bers of a South Korean climb­ing ex­pe­di­tion were killed af­ter a vi­o­lent snow­storm swept them off a cliff on Nepal’s Mount Gurja, one of the dead­li­est moun­taineer­ing ac­ci­dents to hit the Hi­malayan na­tion in re­cent years.

The bod­ies of eight climbers – four South Kore­ans and four Nepali guides – were spot­ted near the wreck­age of their camp by a res­cue team yes­ter­day morn­ing, but strong winds were ham­per­ing the search ef­fort.

A fifth South Korean climber was ini­tially re­ported miss­ing, but of­fi­cials later con­firmed he was at the camp when the deadly storm hit Fri­day and also per­ished.

“A moun­tain ex­pe­di­tion of five South Korean na­tion­als and four for­eign­ers were swept off by strong winds at the base camp dur­ing their climb to Mount Gurja. (They) fell off a cliff and died,” the South Korean foreign min­istry said in a state­ment.

He­li­copter pi­lot Sid­dartha Gu­rung was among the first peo­ple to reach the site af­ter the deadly storm and de­scribed a scene of to­tal de­struc­tion.

He said all the tents had been flat­tened, re­duced to a tan­gled mess of tar­pau­lin and bro­ken poles, and the climbers’ bod­ies were scat­tered across a wide area, in­clud­ing some in a riverbed some 500m (1,640ft) away from the main camp.

“Ev­ery­thing is gone, all the tents are blown apart,” Gu­rung said.

Gu­rung landed a he­li­copter just above the ex­pe­di­tion team’s camp and at­tempted to de­scend to the camp­site with a group of lo­cal vil­lagers, but icy and un­sta­ble con­di­tions meant they were un­able to re­trieve any of the bod­ies.

Res­cue of­fi­cials tried to send a sec­ond he­li­copter to the site but it was un­able to fly due to strong winds, po­lice spokesman Sailesh Thapa said.

An­other at­tempt will be made Sun­day, he added.

The storm is the dead­li­est in­ci­dent to hit Nepal’s moun­taineer­ing in­dus­try since 18 peo­ple were killed at Mt Ever­est’s base camp in 2015 in an avalanche trig­gered by a pow­er­ful earth­quake.

The pre­vi­ous year, 16 Sher­pas were killed on Ever­est when an avalanche swept through the Khumbu Ice­fall dur­ing the busy Spring climb­ing sea­son. Then in Oc­to­ber, a freak bl­iz­zard killed more than 40 tourists and their guides in the An­na­purna re­gion, a disaster that was largely blamed on poor weather fore­cast­ing and lack­lus­tre safety stan­dards in Nepal’s poorly reg­u­lated trekking in­dus­try.

Moun­tain weather is known for be­ing un­pre­dictable with strong winds ca­pa­ble of throw­ing a per­son off bal­ance.

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