Blizzard in Himalayas Leads to Avalanche Killing at Least 20 People; Dozens Missing

In a photo released by the Nepalese Army, emergency responders carried a victim of the avalanche away from the site. (Credit: Reuters)
In a photo released by the Nepalese Army, emergency responders carried a victim of the avalanche away from the site. (Credit: Reuters)

A blizzard and avalanche in Nepal’s Himalayas climbing region have killed at least 20 people, nearly half of them foreigners, in the midst of the October trekking season, district officials said Wednesday.

Dozens were reported missing and feared buried under snow and avalanche debris in the so-called Annapurna Circuit of central Nepal, a favored destination among mountaineer adventurers.

The death toll eclipsed the last major mountaineering disaster in Nepal’s Himalayas, when 16 Sherpa guides died in an avalanche six months ago on Mount Everest, the worst climbing calamity in Everest’s history.

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It was believed that as many as 200 trekkers were caught by the latest weather, a freakish storm that began bearing down on the Annapurna region of the Himalayas on Tuesday, part of the aftermath of a cyclone that ravaged India’s eastern coast two days earlier.

Fearing the worst, friends and relatives of missing climbers reached out to each other via Facebook and Twitter. A Facebook page titled “Annapurna Nepal Avalanche and Blizzard Info Share” became a virtual bulletin board. “Our hearts and minds are on Annapurna, Nepal,” read the caption on a photo of snow-capped Annapurna, the world’s 10th highest peak.

While 22 people were rescued on Wednesday, heavy accumulations of snow — more than two feet in some areas — forced the Nepali Army and the police to suspend further rescue actions until Thursday.

The army, guided by rescued trekkers, recovered 12 bodies near Thorong La, a pass along a popular trekking circuit, according to the Mustang chief district officer, Baburam Bhandari. The dead included two Israeli tourists and two Poles, as well as eight Nepali trekkers who were trapped in a blizzard.

In Manang district, four Canadians and one Indian trekker were buried in an avalanche along the mountain pass. Their bodies will take days to dig out of the snow, said Devendra Lamichhane, the chief district officer in Manang.

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SOURCE: The New York Times

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