Hope fades for missing South Korea, Nepali trekkers buried by avalanche

Hope fades for missing South Korea, Nepali trekkers buried by avalanche

helicopter flies over Deurali near the avalanche site in Annapurna
A helicopter flies over Deurali near the avalanche site in Annapurna mountain region, some 200km west of Kathmandu on Jan 20, 2020. (Photo: AFP/ANG TASHI SHERPA)

POKHARA, Nepal: Rescuers in the search for four South Korean trekkers and three Nepalis said Tuesday (Jan 21) there was little hope of finding them alive after they were swept away and buried by an avalanche in the Himalayas.

The group was descending near Annapurna base camp around 3,230m above sea level when the avalanche struck on Friday after heavy snowfall.

"It has been so many days, so it is hard to be hopeful for survival. With our equipment we found signals on the area when the avalanche landed, confirming that there are bodies buried inside," rescue worker Ang Tashi Sherpa told AFP.

Rescue workers prepare to go on the avalanche site
Rescue workers prepare to go on the avalanche site in Annapurna mountain region for searching the missing trekkers in Pokhara, some 200km west of Kathmandu on Jan 20, 2020. (Photo: AFP/PRAKASH MATHEMA)

READ: Search for South Korean trekkers missing in Nepal could take weeks: Rescuers

Experts say there is a very low chance of survival for those buried in an avalanche for more than two hours.

Rescuers have marked the position where signals from electronic detection devices have been recorded.

Local official Him Bahadur Gurung said nearly 4.5m of fresh snow had accumulated in the area.

A general view from a helicopter of the avalanche site in Annapurna mountain region
A general view from a helicopter of the avalanche site in Annapurna mountain region, some 200km west of Kathmandu on Jan 20, 2020. (Photo: AFP/ANG TASHI SHERPA)

On Tuesday morning, an 11-member specialised team from the Nepal Army departed by chopper for the site along with South Korean personnel.

"Our focus is to find them. The teams will try to expedite melting of the snow or dig through," said Dan Bahadur Karki, police chief of Kaski district.

"It is still a risky operation but all possible efforts are being made."

Officials estimate that parts of the snow mass could thaw in two weeks if it is sunny but it would take up to a month for most of it to melt.

Six of the missing were part of the same expedition, while one Nepali porter was escorting a different group.

The four foreigners - two men and two women - were part of an 11-member team of South Korean nationals. Others have safely descended.

Annapurna is an avalanche-prone and technically difficult mountain range with a higher death rate
Annapurna is an avalanche-prone and technically difficult mountain range with a higher death rate than Everest, the world's highest peak (Photo: AFP/PRAKASH MATHEMA)

Education officials in Seoul said they were part of a team of volunteer teachers working with children in Nepal.

Relatives of the missing Koreans who arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday have also visited the avalanche area.

Thousands of trekkers visit Nepal every year for its stunning view of the Himalayas and routes lined with picturesque villages.

The Annapurna region is particularly popular among tourists, with 172,720 visiting the area in 2018.

A snowstorm killed about 40 people on the Annapurna circuit in 2014, in one of the biggest trekking tragedies to hit Nepal.

Source: AFP/nr

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