October 24, 2005

No hope for 18 missing climbers in Nepal: rescuers

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Rescue workers said on Monday there
was no hope of finding seven French and 11 Nepali climbers
missing after an avalanche in western Nepal last week.

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

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

"There is no hope of finding them alive," Bikram Neupane,
chief of the Himalayan Rescue Association which is coordinating
the search, told reporters after a helicopter search mission.

"We will continue the search for bodies. Rescuers have
reached the exact location. The base camp is buried under 8-10
feet of snow. They will dig and try to find the bodies," he

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told
reporters in Paris a second rescue mission was underway.

"The rescue mission that left yesterday to try and locate
the expedition that had been reported missing on the slopes of
Kang Guru indicated this morning to our embassy that given the
nature of the avalanche...the chances of finding any survivors
are unfortunately very slim," he said.

Nepal's tourism ministry said the French team was led by
Daniel Stolzenberg, a teacher from Chamonix.

Eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Mount
Everest, are in Nepal or on its border with China and India.

This is the first major avalanche during this hiking season
which started in September.