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Oct 16, 2014 4:23 AM

Nepal blizzard, avalanche death toll rises to 20

The Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) Search and rescue teams on army helicopters spotted the bodies of eight more trekkers along a popular mountain trail in central Nepal that was buried in avalanches and blizzards, raising the death toll to 20, officials said Thursday.

A number of foreign trekkers were rescued Thursday, but the death toll was expected to rise.

About 70 people were still missing along or near the popular Annapurna Circuit, 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of the capital, Katmandu, said Ganga Sagar Pant of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal.

The route was filled with international hikers because October is peak trekking season, when the air is clear and the weather is cool. There were also many Nepalese out on the trails because of local festival holidays.

At least 12 people died when they were caught Tuesday in the Thorong La pass area in sudden blizzard, caused by the remains of a cyclone that hit India several days ago.

As the weather improved, rescue workers recovered the bodies of four hikers two Poles, an Israeli and a Nepali from the Thorong La pass area. Two trekkers from Hong Kong and 12 Israelis, were airlifted on Wednesday to Katmandu, where they were being treated at the Military Hospital.

The blizzard appeared to contribute to an avalanche Wednesday that killed at least eight people in Phu village in the neighboring Manang district, including an Indian and four Canadian trekkers, said government official Devendra Lamichane. Three villagers were also killed in the avalanche; their bodies were recovered Wednesday.

Digging out the foreigners' bodies will take days, he said. There are no roads there and the only way up is to trek in the snow-covered grounds to nearby villages. Three Canadian trekkers who survived the avalanche have been airlifted to nearby village.

Five climbers remained missing in a separate avalanche some 75 kilometers to the west, at the base camp for Mount Dhaulagiri. The climbers, three Slovakians and three Nepali guides, were preparing to scale the 8,167-meter (26,800-foot) -high peak, the world's seventh tallest, said Gyanedra Shrestha of Nepal's mountaineering department.

Baburam Bhandari, the chief government administrator in the area, said dozens of people were still stranded on the route and were out of contact because of poor communication.

An avalanche in April just above the base camp on Mount Everest killed 16 Nepalese guides, the deadliest single disaster on the mountain. Climate experts say rising global temperatures have contributed to avalanches in the Himalayas.


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