Asia

Nepal storm kills climbers on Himalayan peak Gurja

An ice avalanche is shooting down an icy rock slope Image copyright Frank Bienewald/Getty
Image caption Nepal is home to eight of the world's 14 highest peaks

Nine climbers died when a violent snowstorm destroyed their camp on a Himalayan peak in western Nepal.

A five-member South Korean expedition team and four Nepali guides were at the base camp of Mount Gurja when the storm struck, police said on Saturday.

The crew of a rescue helicopter began retrieving the victims on Sunday, after attempts the day before were halted by strong winds.

The freak accident scattered the bodies as far as 500m (1,640ft) away.

"The recovery mission is in progress," police spokesman Sailesh Thapa told the BBC. "The incident happened due to a snowstorm."

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Kim Chang-ho has won awards for his mountaineering efforts

Local media report that experienced climber Kim Chang-ho, the first South Korean to reach the summits of the world's 14 highest mountains without using supplemental oxygen, is among the dead.

"The camp was completely destroyed," the BBC heard from Myagdi district official Liladhar Adhikari. "It is not clear what went wrong.

"We assume that the camp may have been set up at a higher altitude than normal, but we will know what exactly happened after a thorough investigation."

Expedition organisers raised the alarm after losing contact with the group, which set off on 7 October, for nearly 24 hours.

The climbers - led by Kim - had been waiting for a window of good weather so they could reach the summit, when the storm hit Friday.

The base camp, which is at least one-day's trek from the nearest village, is at 3,500m (11,483ft), on the 7,193m-high mountain.

The rarely-climbed Mount Gurja sits in Nepal's Annapurna region, next to avalanche-prone Dhaulagiri, the world's seventh highest mountain.

According to the Himalayan Database, no-one has stood on Gurja's summit since 1996.

Only 30 people have successfully climbed to its peak compared with more the than 8,000 people who have reached the summit of the world's highest mountain, Everest.

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