Nepal snowslide suspends search for missing trekkers

Kate Ng
Climbers await rescue after an avalanche hit in Deurali: CAPT. ANANDA THAPA/via REUTERS

The search for seven people who went missing on a popular trekking route in Nepal has been halted because of dangers posed by new avalanches.

Four South Koreans and three Nepali guides were believed to have been swept by a larger avalanche on Friday, which hit the popular Mount Annapurna circuit trekking route.

Officials said around 200 climbers were rescued from other parts of the trail and flown to safety by helicopters.

Meera Acharya, an official from the Department of Tourism, said on Sunday the new smaller avalanches made it dangerous for rescuers to approach the area where the missing trekkers were last seen.

As much as five meters (16ft) of snow at the scene of the avalanche also delayed rescue efforts on Saturday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Once the snow and ice stops falling, the operation will resume and be joined by helicopters and 10 more police officers.

The avalanche on Friday followed rains and snow earlier in the week and took place at an altitude of 1,230 meters (10,600ft). Mount Annapurna is one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas.

The missing trekkers were part of a team of nine South Korean teachers and their three Nepali guides. Five other members of the team were safe and taking shelter at a lodge.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the teachers were staying in Nepal for volunteer work.

South Korea has dispatched an emergency response team of two government workers along with officials from an education body and a tourism agency to Kathmandu to assist in search operations.

President Moon Jae-in vowed the utmost efforts to find the missing trekkers, adding: “I am thinking of the missing people and their families ahead of the Lunar New Year.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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