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9 summiteers dead in Nepal avalanche

Publication Date : 24-09-2012

 

An avalanche on Mt Manaslu, the eighth highest peak of the world, yesterday killed at least nine climbers and left several other expeditioners injured.

The avalanche occurred at camp-3 of the 8,163-metre high mountain at 7,300 metres at around 4:00am. The climbers were most possibly sleeping when they were hit with the snow.

While 18 climbers were rescued by a joint Simrik, Fishtail and Mountain Airlines rescue team, a few others are still likely under snow, said DSP Basanta Bahadur Kunwar, the police in-charge of Gorkha district.

Rescue operations were aborted after 3:00pm owing to poor visibility and bad weather conditions.

Among the dead are German national Christian Mittermeyer, Spanish Marti Roig Gasull and Nepali trekker Dawa Dorje Sherpa, a local of Solukhumbu, police said. Others are yet to be identified. While Mittermeyer's body has been flown to the Capital, Sherpa and Gasull's bodies are still at the base camp.

“We have located six other bodies in the snow,” said Capt Sunil Shrestha, the station manager of Simrik Airlines. “Since we needed to rescue those alive first, we were not able to carry the dead bodies.”

Shrestha said rescue operations will resume at the earliest today morning.

Five trekkers, who have sustained serious injuries, were transported to Kathmandu for treatment. Thirteen others are receiving medical help at the base camp itself.

The avalanche site in Samagaun VDC-4 in Gorkha district is a day-and-a-half walk from the nearest police station, said DSP Kunwar. Samagaun is around 180 kilometres from Gorkha district headquarters.

“We were not able to access the avalanche site to provide foot rescue due to the geographical terrain,” said Kunwar.

According to Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, the head of the home ministry's disaster response division, no government mechanism was deputed to carry out rescue operations at the site.

“We lack manpower who can work at that altitude,” he said. “Nevertheless, we were on a stand-by to deploy the army for a rescue mission if needed, but since trained airlines personnel were already doing the needful, further action was not required.”

A statement issued by the ministry of culture, tourism and civil aviations said the victims were expeditioners belonging to five different trekking agencies – Thamserku Trekking, Cho Oyu Trekking, Himalayan Guides Nepal Treks and Expeditions, Seven Summit Treks and Express.com.

However, since no inquiries were carried out on Sunday, the total number of victims and their identities has yet to be assessed.

Under Secretary at the Tourism Ministry Rajendra Sigdel said the team begun their expedition about a week ago. “At camp-3, they were probably making the final push to the summit,” he said.

Considered one of the most hazardous mountains to climb, this is not the first accident that has occurred on Manaslu . On April 10, 1972, a South Korean expedition was hit by an avalanche at 6,500 metres. Noted as the deadliest mountain accident in Nepal so far, the avalanche killed 15 climbers, including 10 Nepali Sherpas.

Toshio Imanishi and Gyalzen Norbu, members of a Japanese expedition, first scaled Mt Manaslu on May 9, 1956.

 

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