9 climbers killed in Nepal snow storm

Khaleej Times - - FRONT PAGE -

kathmandu — 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 on Satur­day morn­ing, but strong winds were ham­per­ing the search ef­fort.

A fifth South Korean climber was ini­tially re­ported miss­ing, but of­fi­cials have now con­firmed that he was at the camp when the deadly storm hit on Fri­day and is be­lieved to have 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 polls, and the climbers’ bod­ies were scat­tered across a wide area, in­clud­ing

some in a river bed some 500 me­tres 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 on Satur­day af­ter­noon but it was un­able to fly due to strong winds, po­lice spokesman Sailesh Thapa said.

An­other at­tempt will be made on Sun­day, he added.

The storm is the dead­li­est in­ci­dent to hit Nepal’s moun­taineer­ing in­dus­try since 18 peo­ple were killed at Mount 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. Wangchu Sherpa, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Trekking Camp Nepal, who or­gan­ised the ex­pe­di­tion, said they raised the alarm af­ter they had not heard from the South Korean team for nearly 24 hours.

“Af­ter they (the climbers) were out of con­tact since yes­ter­day we sent peo­ple from the vil­lage and a he­li­copter to search for them,” he said.

The team had been camped at the foot of the 7,193-me­tre Mount Gurja since early Oc­to­ber, wait­ing for a win­dow of good weather so they could at­tempt to reach the sum­mit.

Feted South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, who in 2013 be­came the fastest per­son to sum­mit the world’s 14 high­est moun­tains without us­ing sup­ple­men­tal oxy­gen, was lead­ing the ex­pe­di­tion, ac­cord­ing to a govern­ment-is­sued climb­ing per­mit. —

AP

A he­li­copter lands close to a storm site af­ter search­ing for miss­ing moun­taineers on the gurja hi­mal moun­tain in Nepal. —

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