October 23, 2005

Nepal searches for 18 climbers after avalanche

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Rescue workers are searching for
seven French and 11 Nepali climbers who went missing four days
ago after an avalanche in western Nepal, rescue officials said
on Sunday.

Authorities in Kathmandu lost contact with the 21-member
climbing team on Wednesday after the avalanche tore through the
base camp of the 6,981-meter (22,903-feet) Kang Guru peak.

The team was at the base camp when the avalanche struck,
Bikram Neupane, chief of the Himalayan Rescue Association
(HRA), told Reuters.

Three Nepali climbers were rescued on Sunday, but the rest
were still missing, he said.

"Three Nepali climbers from the same team were picked up by
the helicopter and were taken to Pokhara," he said.

Sri Ram K.C., who is coordinating the rescue operation,
said seven rescue workers had been dropped in by helicopter in
Manang district to search for the climbers.

"The rescuers are armed with picks, ropes, shovels and
other equipment and will look for the climbers in the snow," he
said from Pokhara, a major city in west Nepal.

Manang is a popular destination for Western hikers and
climbers turn up in the thousands each year in Nepal. The
kingdom has eight of the world's 14 highest peaks, including
Mount Everest.

Sri Ram said the helicopter could not land at the base camp
because of heavy snow.

This is the first major avalanche of Nepal's hiking season,
which started in September.