Bodies of two Annapurna Circuit trekkers may have been found

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Bodies of two Annapurna Circuit trekkers may have been found

The bodies of two of four Korean teachers missing in the Himalayas may have been found, 100 days after the search for them began.

They were located by a local rescue team at 3 p.m. Saturday approximately 300 meters (984 feet) from where they were hiking in January when an avalanche hit, according to the Korean Embassy in Nepal and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sunday.

Nepal police said that the bodies were likely those of the missing Korean trekkers.

Because of heavy fog and steady rainfall, recovery of the bodies was set to resume Sunday. The bodies were expected to be airlifted to a state hospital in Kathmandu, the Nepali capital, Sunday, and their identities will be confirmed.

Four Korean trekkers and three Nepali guides went missing in the Deurali area at an elevation of 3,230 meters on the Annapurna trekking circuit after an avalanche on Jan. 17.

The Koreans were a part of a group of nine teachers from South Chungcheong who had been trekking in the Annapurna area during their time off from an educational volunteer program.

The missing Koreans - two men and two women - ranged in age from 37 to 59. They were elementary and middle school teachers from South Chungcheong who had volunteered to work with children in local schools in Kathmandu.

The trekkers had been accompanied by two Nepali guides, while the third Nepali guide who went missing was with another group.

At the time of the accident, Korea immediately sent an emergency response team of Foreign Ministry and South Chungcheong Province Office of Education officials to support the search.

But air and ground search efforts were hindered by heavy snowfall and harsh weather conditions. Nepali authorities eventually decided to suspend the efforts on Jan. 24.

In early February, a group of some two dozen members of a Nepali trekking association and local rescue experts tried again to search for the missing people, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

It had been expected that the search would resume when the snow melted in the spring.

Nepal has been under lockdown for the past month because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the resumption of the official search has faced delays. Local residents have formed patrol teams to scour the area for the missing hikers.

On Wednesday, the body of a Nepali guide accompanying the Korean teachers was discovered, leading to expectations that the other missing people would soon be found. The body of another Nepali guide had been retrieved in late February.

Three officials of the South Chungcheong Province Office of Education and one family member of a missing teacher are staying at Pokhara, around 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the accident site.

The Annapurna Massif includes the world’s 10th-highest peak and is one of the most dangerous areas in the world for climbing, though the conservation area surrounding the mountains is the most popular destination for foreign trekkers in Nepal.

In October 2018, five Korean climbers and four Nepali guides were killed by a snowstorm on the 7,193-meter Mount Gurja in the deadliest accident in Nepal mountaineering tourism since 2015.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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