Nanda Devi: Bodies spotted in hunt for climbers missing in India

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Media caption,

The four survivors were assessed in hospital before helping with the search

A helicopter crew searching for eight climbers who went missing in the Indian Himalayas has spotted five bodies, Indian officials say.

Four Britons, two Americans, an Australian and an Indian made up the missing climbers, who disappeared on India's second highest-peak.

Nanda Devi was believed to have been hit by multiple avalanches.

A source told AFP news agency the bodies were seen on the same route as the climbers had taken.

Authorities are trying to assess how to retrieve the bodies from treacherous terrain where helicopters cannot land, says the BBC's Yogita Limaye in the state of Uttarakhand.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The 12 climbers pictured before they began their ascent

The missing climbers have not been heard from since 26 May, a day before an avalanche hit the 7,816-metre mountain.

Four other climbers who were part of the group ascending the peak were rescued on Sunday and have since been assisting rescue efforts.

They had turned back early because of the bad weather, and were the last ones in contact with the larger group.

Who are the missing?

The missing group was being led by experienced British mountain guide Martin Moran, whose Scotland-based company, Moran Mountain, has run numerous expeditions in the Indian Himalayas.

The rest of the group have been named as John McLaren, Rupert Whewell and University of York lecturer Dr Richard Payne from the UK; US nationals Anthony Sudekum and Ronald Beimel; Australian Ruth McCance and Indian guide Chetan Pandey.

Image source, Lisa Anson
Image caption,
Rupert Whewell is one of the missing climbers

"Four bodies can be seen together and a fifth slightly away from the others," a senior official for the nearby Pithoragarh region told Reuters news agency.

Rescue workers are now operating on the assumption all eight climbers have been killed, Vijay Kumar Jogdande said, adding that they expected to find the three other bodies nearby.

The family of Rupert Whewell says he is a very experienced climber and "the ice and rocks is where he is happiest".

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for York University said staff and students there were "extremely concerned" for Dr Payne's safety.

Martin Moran's family earlier said they were "deeply saddened by the tragic events".

What about the survivors?

The four rescued climbers were named as Mark Thomas, 44, Ian Wade, 45, Kate Armstrong, 39, and Zachary Quain, 32.

They had been airlifted to safety after being spotted early on Sunday at Munsiyari base camp near Nanda Devi.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The international group of climbers has not been heard from since 26 May

Information they provided after their rescue helped to narrow the search area to about 50 sq km (20 sq miles).

"Even if we airdrop someone, he will need at least six to eight days to acclimatise before he can undertake any rescue mission," Vivek Kumar Pandey, a spokesperson for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, told AFP.

Nanda Devi is the world's 23rd highest mountain and was first scaled in 1936.

Considered one of the toughest Himalayan peaks to climb, it attracts fewer climbers than other mountains in the region.