All hope gone for missing Himalayan trekkers

Israeli survivors from the blizzard hug each other, as they get ready to board a bus to the airport. Picture: Reuters
Israeli survivors from the blizzard hug each other, as they get ready to board a bus to the airport. Picture: Reuters
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RESCUE teams in Nepal last night said there were no trekkers left stranded after 
completing their search for survivors of a devastating Himalayan storm.

The focus now is on recovering bodies buried in the snow, a government spokesman said.

It is unclear how many people may still be missing in the country’s worst-ever trekking disaster which struck last Wednesday, but the figure could include some British tourists. At least 39 people are known to have died, and nearly 400 people have been rescued from the Annapurna trail.

It is the fifth day that Nepalese army and private helicopters have been searching the trail.

Officials say the rescue effort grew harder yesterday because of worsening weather.

There are currently three different lists of the dead and survivors, being run by the army, the home ministry and Nepal’s trekking association, and some people may have been counted twice. The authorities say they now aim to create a single list.

The British Foreign Office confirmed yesterday that it had taken calls from concerned members of the public, waiting to hear from relatives, but could not say if these people were among those still missing.

An FCO spokeswoman added: “We are in close contact with the local authorities, who are managing the rescue operation. We are not aware of any British 
nationals injured or killed.

“We advise British nationals who are in the affected area to call home to let their families know that they are safe, and to keep checking travel advice, 
Facebook pages and Twitter for updates.”

Nepalese, Japanese, Israeli, 
Canadian, Indian, Slovak, Vietnamese and Polish trekkers are said to be among the dead.

“We are not clear where the missing people are and whether they are safe or not safe,” Yadav Koirala, the chief of Nepal’s disaster management authority, said in Kathmandu, the capital.

Yesterday, relatives of missing Britons in Nepal spoke of their relief after some made contact to say they are safe.

Amanda Vardy said she had received the good news in an 
e-mail from a tour company her brother, Nigel, was with.

Christopher Kneale, father of trekker Clare Glazebrook, said he had also heard that his daughter’s group was safe.

Others who had been on trekking holidays remain missing and a Facebook page has been set up to help find them.

The snowstorms were whipped up by the tail end of a cyclone that hit the Indian coast a few days earlier. Hikers were caught off-guard when the weather changed quickly.

Most of the victims were on or near the Annapurna route, a 140-mile collection of trails through the mountain range.

The largest number of casualties was among those caught on Thorong La pass, one of the highest points on the circuit.

“The snow is very thick and the rescue teams are finding it difficult to pull the bodies out,” said Mr Sharma, an administrator in Dolpa, a district of glaciers and ravines.

Survivors said many victims perished trying to descend from the trail’s highest pass in freezing, whiteout conditions.

The incident was Nepal’s second major mountain disaster this year.

Sixteen guides died as the 
result of an avalanche in April on Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak.

Last week’s disaster was the worst since 42 people died in avalanches in the Mount Everest region in 1995, army officials said.

Eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains are in Nepal. Income from tourism, including permit fees for trekkers, who made up more than 12 per cent of its 800,000 tourists in 2013, accounts for 4 per cent of its economy.