January 5, 2006

Falling Rocks Kill 3 Climbers On Mt. Kilimanjaro

DAR ES SALAAM -- Three tourists, including one American, were killed when rocks tumbled down Mount Kilimanjaro and smashed into climbers preparing to scale the peak of Africa's highest mountain, officials said on Thursday.

Tanzania National Parks director Gerald Bigurube said five other people were injured by the rock slide close to Arrow Glacier base camp early on Wednesday.

The camp, located at an altitude of some 4,700 meters, lies on one of the mountain's most arduous routes.

"I can confirm that three people were killed and five were injured," Bigurube told Reuters. "We're sorting out the identities."

Mohamed Chiko, commander of the local police, said one of the dead was an American, but U.S. embassy officials were unable to confirm this.

Rising to 5,895 meters (19,430 feet), Mount Kilimanjaro, in northern Tanzania, has three peaks -- Shira, Kibo and Mawenzi. Every year, more than 20,000 trekkers set out to reach the "roof of Africa," the world's largest volcano.

U.S. scientists have predicted that the mountain's fast-melting glaciers will disappear in less than 20 years. It is thought that the shrinking glaciers have loosened rocks they once held in place.