Snow­storm kills 9 on Nepal peak

Cebu Daily News - - WORLD -

Kathmandu, Nepal — All nine mem­bers of a South Korean climb­ing ex­pe­di­tion were con­firmed dead Satur­day af­ter a vi­o­lent snow­storm dev­as­tated their camp on Nepal’s Mount Gurja, one of the dead­li­est moun­taineer­ing ac­ci­dents to the Hi­malayan na­tion in re­cent years.

The bod­ies of eight climbers — four South Kore­ans and four Nepali guides — were spot­ted among the wreck­age of their camp by a res­cue team early Satur­day morn­ing, but strong winds and icy con­di­tions 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 the area on Fri­day and is be­lieved to have also per­ished.

“We as­sume the in­ci­dent hap­pened be­cause of a snow­storm be­cause trees are bro­ken and the tents. Even the dead bod­ies are scat­tered,” po­lice spokesman Sailesh Thapa told AFP.

A he­li­copter reached the site and man­aged to land just above the ex­pe­di­tion team’s camp, but were un­able to re­trieve any of the bod­ies.

“Ev­ery­thing is gone, all the tents are blown apart. The con­di­tions were too icy to con­tinue the search,” pi­lot Sid­dartha Gu­rung told AFP.

Gu­rung said a res­cue team would hope­fully re­turn to the camp on Sun­day, if con­di­tions im­proved.

Wangchu Sherpa, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Trekking Camp Nepal, who or­gan­ised the ex­pe­di­tion, said they raised the alarm af­ter they had not heard from the 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 group of South Korean climbers and their Nepali guides had been camped at the foot of the 7,193-me­ter (23,599 foot) 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 seen by AFP.

Kim is be­lieved to be among the dead, of­fi­cials said.

The climb­ing per­mit listed four South Korean climbers, but the fifth mem­ber had joined the team later, ac­cord­ing to Suresh Dakal of Trekking Camp Nepal.

Rarely-climbed Gurja lies in Nepal’s An­na­purna re­gion, next to avalanche-prone Dhaula­giri — the world’s sev­enth high­est moun­tain.

Gurja was first sum­mited in 1969 by a Ja­panese team but no one has stood on its sum­mit for 22 years, ac­cord­ing to the Hi­malayan Data­base.

Four climbers have per­ished on its flanks and a to­tal of 30 have suc­cess­fully reached it speak—a frac­tion of the more than 8,000 peo­ple who have sum­mited the world’s high­est moun­tain, Ever­est.

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