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39 trekkers rescued from snowstorm- hit area in Nepal


Kathmandu, Oct 17 :

Rescuers have evacuated 39 foreign tourists and Nepalese nationals stranded in mountainous districts three days after a severe snowstorm triggered avalanches and killed more than two dozen trekkers in western Nepal, officials said Friday.

According to the Nepal Army, six people are seriously injured and they have been brought to the capital city for further treatment, Xinhua reported.

Half a dozen bodies have been recovered Friday.

Eight critically injured Israeli nationals have been admitted to Ciwec Clinic at Kathmandu while two Chinese nationals have been admitted to Nepal Army hospital from where they would be discharged Sunday, the Nepal Army said.

On Thursday, 117 foreign tourists and Nepalese were evacuated from the affected area.

Meanwhile, the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) said here Friday that the toll from the snow blizzards would probably climb to 50 as more than 100 people are still missing.

Talking to Xinhua in Kathmandu, Sagar Pandey, general secretary of TAAN, who just returned from Mustang district, one of the most affected areas by the blizzards and avalanches that have killed at least 32 people till Thursday, said that it was very difficult for their team to rescue more survivors.

According to him, the thickness of the snow in the districts amounted to 1 to 1.5 metres and the strong wind obstructed helicopter search for trekkers.

He said that it would take at least a week to complete the rescue operation due to certain technical barriers.

There are no authorised statistics of foreign tourists and locals hit by the heavy snowfall and blizzards in the Annapurna Circuit. But according to an official of Annapurna Conservation Area (ACAP) that administers tourists in the region, an average of 280-300 people are seen in the area on a daily basis.

October and November are considered as the prime season for trekking in Nepal.

Joint efforts are being made by the Nepal Army, Nepal Police and the trekking and mountaineering agencies to search and rescue survivors.

According to a report by the Efe news agency, Nepalese authorities have still not been able to contact around 300 hill walkers and trekkers, including 60 foreigners.

Around 200 people could not be reached in the vicinity of Throung La pass, the highest point of the Annapurna trekking circuit (17,779 feet), media officer of the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal, Machindra Aryal, told Efe news agency.

The spokesperson said these people could be in the two camps situated at a height of 14,600 feet and 15,912 feet, respectively, where hikers usually stop before climbing Throung La pass.

Aryal said there were many foreigners among the people who were out of contact, but did not specify the exact number.

Usually this area can be contacted by telephone, but the recent snowstorm had snapped all connections and made it difficult for the rescue teams to reach there, western Nepal regional administrator Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya said.

The 21-day-long Annapurna circuit is very popular among trekkers and climbers and does not require special training.

In 2013, around 90,000 foreigners travelled the circuit, out of which 20,000 went through Throung La pass, according to data of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project.

Another 100 people, including 60 foreigners, were also out of touch in the remote Dolpo region, near the Tibetan border, trekking agent Jitendra Jhankri said.

According to Jhankri, it was normal that no contact could be established under the circumstances.

“It is unlikely that they were hit by the snowstorm,” Jhankri said.

Nepal was hit by heavy snowfall early this week after a cyclone lashed India’s southern coast Sunday.

Fatal accidents in the Himalayan region are relatively common.

The tragedy is considered as the second deadliest one that hit the mountains in Nepal this year after 16 sherpas were killed in a massive avalanche in Mount Everest region in April.