17 Oct 2014

Snow storm death toll in Nepal hits 29

9:57 pm on 17 October 2014

At least 29 people have died on a key Nepali hiking route, officials say, after blizzards struck at the height of the Himalayan climbing season.

An injured survivor is assisted by army personel into a Nepalese Army helicopter in Manang District, along the Annapurna Circuit Trek.

An injured survivor is assisted by army personel into a Nepalese Army helicopter in Manang District, along the Annapurna Circuit Trek. Photo: AFP / NEPAL ARMY

There are fears the final toll will be higher. Nine bodies were found on Thursday and about 220 people have been rescued, but many are still missing, the BBC reported.

Nepalese, Israeli, Canadian, Indian, Slovak and Polish trekkers are among those killed.

Two New Zealanders were expected to walk out of the storm-hit mountain ranges yesterday, and another was already on her way back home after being evacuated by jeep.

Severe rain and snow in Nepal appear linked to a recent cyclone in India, with Tuesday's exceptional weather said to be part of the remnants of Cyclone Hudhud.

Most of the deaths happened when a blizzard hit a point on the Annapurna Circuit, a well-known trekking route in central Nepal.

Nearly 170 foreign tourists were registered to tramp in the area when the storm arrived, and authorities say around half are still missing.

Trekking Agencies Association Nepal head Ganga Sagar Pant said there had never been a disaster like it in the area.

"We have information there are still some groups waiting for rescue in three different places."

Rescue operations due to resume today

The bad weather hit a resting place 4500 metres (14,800 feet) above sea level, not far below the circuit's highest point, the Thorung La pass.

October is a popular trekking season and there were likely to have been many climbers on the passes.

Home Ministry officials said more people could have been saved and rescued if there had been an early warning against the snow storm, the BBC's Navin Singh Khadka in Kathmandu reported.

Two military helicopters were sent from the capital Kathmandu to assist the rescue operation on Wednesday and nine people were rescued overnight.

Many more were rescued in Thursday's search, with both private and military helicopters deployed.

Rescue operations were called off for the day when darkness fell on Thursday but will resume again today.

New Zealanders not in worst-hit area - Trekking Adventures

New Zealand-based Trekking Adventures owner Ann Young said yesterday she had three New Zealanders in the area when the storm hit.

She said they were not in the worst affected area of the Mustang district, but had still been stranded by heavy rain.

Ms Young said a group, including one New Zealander, made it out after a 30-hour horrific jeep ride, arriving in the city of Pokhara last night.

She said the other two New Zealanders were on a bus, when the road turned into a river and they had to walk over landslides to safety.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesteday there were 78 New Zealanders registered in Nepal but the consul there was not aware of any being affected.

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