Snow hampers search for hikers

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Snow hampers search for hikers


A helicopter transports Nepali military rescue workers and Korea’s quick response team to continue search efforts Monday after four Koreans went missing after an avalanche on Mount Annapurna in the Himalayas in Nepal on Friday. Family members of the missing victims were also transported to the scene of the accident by helicopter that day. [YONHAP]

Search operations resumed Monday for four Koreans missing in the Himalayas, officials said, amid projections that the search could take at least a few weeks due to bad weather conditions.

The school teachers from South Korea’s central province of South Chungcheong remain unaccounted for after an avalanche while they were trekking at the popular Annapurna Base Camp in northwestern Nepal on Friday. Three Nepali guides are also missing.

Heavy snowfall and rain have been hampering the rescue efforts. Fresh avalanches that occurred at the scene on Sunday forced officials to suspend the search operations.

Nepali authorities resumed the ground and air searches at around 8 a.m. Monday, mobilizing additional military rescue personnel to the scene, according to officials.

A helicopter carrying the military rescue workers, local police and South Korea’s quick response team left the airport in Pokhara, a city near Mount Annapurna, and is attempting to land at the site of the accident, they said.

Some family members of the missing trekkers boarded another helicopter to see the site of the accident.

An official from Nepal’s Tourism Ministry said Sunday the search could take 20 days as the weather needs to clear for the authorities to start looking for the missing tourists, Reuters reported.

It quoted one of the rescuers as saying that the operations could take even longer because they need to wait for the snow to melt.

Um Hong-gil, a prominent South Korean climber who is in Nepal to assist with the search, told Yonhap News Agency on Monday that the accident site appears to be in the worst situation.

“A person who went close to the scene told me that a huge chunk of ice that had been piled up on high grounds for a long time collapsed along with the snow,” Um said.

“This snow and ice has poured down into a deep valley and likely won’t melt well even when the spring comes. I am afraid that the search might be prolonged.”

Um brought a drone and other equipment from a rescue center he recently built with a South Korean company at the Machapuchare Base Camp to lend support to the search operations.

He plans to fly the drone to the accident site to help better grasp the situation.

Officials said earlier it takes three days by car and foot to arrive at the scene of an accident from Pokhara, the nearest major city, which is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of Kathmandu.

Korea has dispatched an emergency response team of government officials and others to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, to assist the search operations.

The four missing - two women in their 30s and 50s and two men in their 50s - were among a nine-member team on a trekking course in the Deurali part of the Annapurna Base Camp when the avalanche engulfed them.

The five others were rescued by a chopper from a nearby lodge.

The teachers were part of a 39-member volunteer team dispatched to Nepal by the education office of South Chungcheong.

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