Nine trekkers – eight foreigners and a local man – have died in a snowstorm and avalanche in Nepal’s Himalayas.
Heavy snowfall sparked blizzards and avalanches on Tuesday in the remote Mustang and Manang districts near the highly popular Annapurna circuit.
Seventeen stranded trekkers were rescued after the weather cleared on Wednesday, but another 143 foreign tourists remain out of contact.
“A chopper search has located the bodies of five people, including four Canadians and an Indian, killed in an avalanche, bringing the total number of dead to nine,” said police official Ganesh Rai, who is in charge of rescue efforts.
The five bodies were found in an area of Manang hit by an avalanche, while four bodies – two Poles, one Israeli and a Nepali – were found in Mustang following a snowstorm.
Rescuers trudged through waist-deep snow as helicopters hired by trekking agencies and a Nepal army machine buzzed overhead, trying to locate those still unaccounted for.
Thousands of trekkers visit the Annapurna region every October, when weather conditions are usually favourable for hiking trips.
However, Mustang and Manang have seen unusually heavy snowfall this week as a result of Cyclone Hudhud, which struck neighbouring India’s eastern coast at the weekend and caused widespread devastation there.
In a separate incident in Manang, three yak herders were killed in an avalanche on Tuesday while grazing their animals, district official Devendra Lamichanne said.
The cyclone also sparked heavy downpours in other parts of central and western Nepal, including hilly Gorkha district, where a 67-year-old French trekker slipped and fell into the Budhi Gandaki river.
The hiker was part of a team of 10 tourists heading up the scenic Manaslu route.