Seventeen bodies have been recovered at the base camp on Mount Everest, where hundreds of climbers are stranded after the earthquake in Nepal triggered an avalanche on the world’s highest peak.
Helicopters began landing at the camp on Sunday morning to airlift the injured after flights were delayed by cloudy weather overnight.
“People being stretchered out as choppers land – half a dozen this morning,” AFP’s Kathmandu bureau chief Ammu Kannampilly said in a text message.
“Weather clear, some snowfall.”
Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said at least 61 people were injured.
The avalanche that swept through parts of base camp had the combined force of two separate snowslides from different peaks, Mr Sherpa said, and blanketed the camp in powder snow.
The avalanche swept down Everest, burying part of the base camp as climbers gathered near the main route to the summit at the beginning of the climbing season in the deadliest incident on the mountain.
US climber John Reiter said dozens of people had suffered critical injuries, many of them with head injuries. “It’s been a rough 18 hours,” he told CNN.
One of those killed was Dan Fredinburg, a Google engineer based in California. He suffered head injuries when the avalanche hit, according to a statement from the mountaineering company that had taken him to base camp.
Tourism ministry officials estimated that at least 1,000 climbers, including about 400 foreigners, had been at base camp or on the ascent to the peak when the earthquake struck.
There are around 100 climbers at camps 1 and 2 on Mount Everest, above base camp, and all are safe after an earthquake set off an avalanche, Mr Sherpa said.
It will be difficult to evacuate the climbers as the route back to base camp through the Khumbu icefalls is blocked, he aded