KATHMANDU - An avalanche in Nepal killed at least nine climbers including a German man, an Italian, a Spaniard and a local guide trying to conquer one of the world’s most deadly mountains, officials said Sunday.
The expedition of about 25 members were near the top of Manaslu ahead of a final push to the 8,156-metre summit when it was hit by a wall of snow on Saturday night.
“Nine bodies have been recovered from the mountain, including one Sherpa guide and a German mountaineer,” Basanta Bahadur Kunwar, the local deputy superintendent of police, told AFP by telephone.
“So far, 13 people have been rescued alive, of whom five have been airlifted to Kathmandu for treatment,” he added. Three climbers were thought to still be missing when rescue operations were called off for the night.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, vice-president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, identified one of the dead as an Italian after speaking to a rescue helicopter pilot and local government officials in Samar.
“One Italian climber’s body has been brought down to Samar, a town near Manaslu, along with the one dead Sherpa,” he told AFP. “It’s very difficult to communicate with the base camp because the weather is bad.” The ministry of tourism identified a third dead man as Spanish. The nationalities and genders of the other dead and injured were not known by Sunday evening, but the group also included some French members.
Police said several injured climbers were stuck at base camp because rescue helicopters could not fly due to poor visibility.
Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain in the world, is considered one of the most dangerous, with scores of deaths in recent years and just a few hundred successful ascents.
“The avalanche hit camp three of the Manaslu peak located at 7,000 metres resulting in a flood of snow,” said Laxmi Dhakal, head of the home ministry’s disaster response division. Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 metres, including the world’s highest, Mount Everest, and attracts thousands of mountaineers every year.
Most come in the spring, when Himalayan conditions are at their best, but there is also a short climbing season in late September and October after the monsoon rains end.
Nepal’s worst-ever climbing disaster happened in 1995 when a huge avalanche struck the camp of a Japanese trekking group in the Mount Everest region, killing 42 people including 13 Japanese.
In 2005 a powder-snow avalanche ploughed into a French expedition’s base camp, on Kang Guru, in the Manang region of central Nepal, sweeping all seven members of the team as well as 11 Nepalese staff to their deaths.
Manaslu saw its worst disaster when a South Korean expedition was buried by snow attempting to climb the northeast face of Manaslu in 1972. The 15 dead included 10 Sherpas and the Korean expedition leader.