LUCKNOW: At least four people have died and several others are still missing in the Indian Himalayas after a group of 41 mountaineers was hit by an avalanche on Tuesday (Oct 4), a statement from a mountaineering institute in northern India said.
The group, consisting of 34 mountaineering trainees and seven instructors, was caught under the avalanche at 8.45am local time, according to the statement.
Four bodies have been recovered while officials from the state and national disaster response forces and the Indian Air Force scour the area, the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, a mountaineering school under the Ministry Of Defence, said in a statement.
"The Indian Air Force is doing an aerial recce of the mountain where this happened. It is not easy to reach the spot," Uttarakhand police chief Ashok Kumar told Reuters by phone.
Vishal Ranjan, registrar with the mountaineering institute confirmed the four deaths and said the rescue operation "has been stopped for now because of heavy rainfall and snowfall in the region".
"We sent two air force choppers to the region and the third one is here on standby for now because of bad weather there," Devendra Singh Patwal, a senior disaster management official, told AFP.
"There has been no contact with the choppers for now because of the weather conditions and connectivity in the region," Patwal said.
"Deeply anguished by the loss of precious lives due to landslide which has struck the mountaineering expedition carried out by the Nehru Mountaineering Institute in Uttarkashi," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted, without giving further details.
The trainees, preparing for high altitude navigation, were returning from Draupadi ka Danda-II mountain peak at 5670m in the northern state of Uttarakhand.
In August, the body of a mountaineer was recovered two months after he fell into a crevasse while crossing a glacier in the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh.
Last week, renowned US ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson's body was found on the slopes of Nepal's Manaslu peak after she went missing skiing down the world's eighth-highest mountain.
On the day of Nelson's accident, an avalanche hit between Camps 3 and 4 on the 8,163m mountain, killing Nepali climber Anup Rai and injuring a dozen others who were later rescued.
Although no substantial research has been done on the impacts of climate change on mountaineering risks in the Himalayas, climbers have reported crevasses widening, running water on previously snowy slopes, and the increasing formation of glacial lakes.