Himalayan snowstorm kills 17, over 100 remain missing


AFP

KATMANDU — A snowstorm in the Himalayan region of central Nepal has killed 17 foreign trekkers and a Nepali, while more than 100 other people remain out of contact, officials said on Wednesday. In a separate incident, rescuers are searching for a 67-year-old French man who fell into a river on Tuesday while following the Manaslu trekking route, police said. A total of 168 tourists had registered to trek in remote Mustang district near the highly popular Annapurna circuit this week, before the snowstorm hit on Tuesday, police official Ganesh Rai told AFP. ��There has been heavy snowfall in the area, up to three feet (91 centimeters),�� said Rai, who is in charge of the rescue effort. ��Among the dead are two Polish trekkers and one Israeli. A Nepali was also buried by the snow,�� he said, without giving further details. Authorities rescued 13 trekkers stranded in the storm after the weather cleared on Wednesday, but the remaining 152 foreign tourists remain out of contact. ��The phone network is not very good so we have not been able to get in touch with the missing, but we hope to find them later today,�� Mustang district official Baburam Bhandari said.

Thousands of trekkers visit the Annapurna region every October, when weather conditions are usually favorable for hiking trips. However, Mustang has seen unusually heavy snowfall this week as a result of Cyclone Hudhud, which struck neighboring India’s eastern coast at the weekend, killing 22 people and causing widespread devastation there. The cyclone also sparked heavy downpours in other parts of central and western Nepal, including hilly Gorkha district, where the French trekker slipped and fell into the Budhi Gandaki river. ��The accident happened around 9 a.m. on Tuesday … we think it was because the track was slippery due to recent heavy rains. Rescue operations are ongoing,�� Gorkha police chief Ramesh Thapa told AFP. The hiker was part of a team of 10 tourists heading up the scenic Manaslu route, named after Mount Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest peak, and developed as an alternative to the crowded Annapurna circuit. The incidents come after the deadliest avalanche to hit Mount Everest left 16 people dead in April and forced an unprecedented shutdown of the world’s highest peak. The avalanche that tore through a group of sherpas �X who were hauling gear up the mountain for their foreign clients before dawn �X saw scores of expeditions cancelled. The effective closure of the mountain for the season dealt a huge blow to the poor country which is highly reliant on tourism revenues from climbing and trekking.