Dozens of stranded tourists have been rescued and more bodies have been found, taking the death toll to 27, after a blizzard and avalanches in northern Nepal.
About 70 hikers were still missing yesterday along or near the popular Annapurna trail, according to the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, and the death toll is expected to rise.
The route, 100 miles north-west of the capital Kathmandu, was filled with international hikers during the peak October trekking season, when the air is generally clear and cool.
There were also many Nepalese people on the trails because of local festivals.
A government spokesman said rescuers had recovered ten more bodies from the Thorong La pass area, where they had been caught in a sudden blizzard on Tuesday.
The bodies had not yet been identified. Rescuers recovered the bodies of four hikers – two Poles, an Israeli and a Nepalese – from the area on Wednesday.
The spokesman said 64 more tourists had been rescued from the area yesterday. Two trekkers from Hong Kong and 12 Israelis were airlifted to Kathmandu, where they were being treated in hospital. They said they had survived by taking refuge in a small tea shop along the path.
Linor Kajan, an injured trekker from Israel, who said she had been stuck in waist-deep snow, said: “I was sure I was going to die on the way to the pass because I lost my group. I lost all the people I was with and I could not see anything.
“One Nepalese guide who knows the way saw me and asked me to stay with him.
“He dragged me, really dragged me to the tea shop and everybody there was really frightened.”
Another Israeli survivor, Yakov Megreli, said they had tried to stay awake in the tea shop to stay warm.
He added: “We tried not to sleep. We tried not to get hypothermia. It was a very frightening and awful situation.”
The blizzard, the tail end of a cyclone that hit the Indian coast a few days earlier, appeared to contribute to an avalanche on Wednesday that killed at least eight people in Phu village in neighbouring Manang district.
The dead included one Indian and four Canadian trekkers as well as three villagers, according to a government official.
The villagers’ bodies were recovered on Wednesday. The trekkers’ bodies were buried in up to six and a half feet of snow and digging them out will take days, he said.
Three Canadian trekkers who survived the avalanche were taken by helicopter to a shelter in a nearby village.
Authorities said five climbers had been killed in a separate avalanche about 45 miles to the west, at the base camp for Mount Dhaulagiri.
The climbers, two Slovaks and three Nepali guides, were preparing to scale the 26,800ft peak, the world’s seventh tallest, Gyanedra Shrestha of Nepal’s mountaineering department, said. Their bodies were recovered yesterday.
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.