Nepal: Annapurna Circuit snow and avalanche deaths reach 28

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Media captionMany survivors are suffering from hypothermia and frostbite, as Andrew North reports

At least 28 people have died on a key Nepali hiking route, officials say, after blizzards struck at the height of the Himalayan climbing season.

There are fears the final toll will be higher. Nine bodies were found on Thursday and about 220 people have been rescued, but many are still missing.

Nepalese, Israeli, Canadian, Indian, Slovak and Polish trekkers are among those killed.

Severe rain and snow in Nepal appear linked to a recent cyclone in India.

Tuesday's exceptional weather was said to be part of the remnants of Cyclone Hudhud.

Most of the deaths happened when a blizzard hit a point on the Annapurna Circuit, a well-known trekking route in central Nepal.

The bad weather hit a resting place 4,500m (14,800ft) above sea level, not far below the circuit's highest point, the Thorung La pass.

October is a popular trekking season and there were likely to have been many climbers on the passes.

Home Ministry officials said more people could have been saved and rescued if there had been an early warning against the snow storm, the BBC's Navin Singh Khadka in Kathmandu reports.

Two military helicopters were sent from the capital Kathmandu to assist the rescue operation on Wednesday and nine people were rescued overnight.

Many more were rescued in Thursday's search, with both private and military helicopters deployed.

Rescue operations were called off for the day when darkness fell on Thursday evening, but will resume again on Friday.

One survivor told BBC Nepali of the horror of seeing corpses on the journey back after the blizzard struck. He said he saw people falling into deep crevasses, unable to get out.

Another survivor, Linor Kajan, described her fear as she was caught in an avalanche.

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Media captionIsraeli trekker Linor Kajan explains how she lost her group and was dragged to safety

"Personally I was sure I was going to die... I was stuck in snow."

She said she was unable to move until a Nepalese guide saw her and dragged her through the snow to safety.

This has been a deadly year for Nepal's trekking and mountaineering industry, which brings in huge revenues to Nepal, one of the world's poorest countries.

What is the Annapurna Circuit?

  • Roughly 241km (150 miles), takes around three weeks to complete
  • Described as "the best long distance trek in the world"
  • Ascends to 5,416m (17,776ft) at the Thorung La Pass
  • Opened to tourists in 1977 after conflicts between guerrillas and the Nepalese army were resolved
  • Circuit passes Mount Annapurna, world's 10th highest mountain and one of the most dangerous

An avalanche on Mount Everest in April killed 16 Sherpa guides and resulted in a massive reduction of expeditions to the world's highest peak.

The latest disaster comes during the peak trekking period. Thousands of tourists head to Nepal in October, many to enjoy its high altitude mountain passes and pristine beauty. But this freak heavy snowfall caught the trekkers off guard.

Nepal's high peaks attract some of the world's best climbers - but trekking is generally safe and appeals to masses of ordinary outdoor enthusiasts.

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