The death toll from a series of avalanches and a blizzard that struck a region of Nepal popular with mountaineers and hikers has risen to 29, with 70 people still missing. The unseasonably bad conditions were caused by the remnants of cyclone Hudhud, which struck India on Sunday.
Baburam Bhandari, a government official in the district of Mustang, one of the areas where the events occurred, told the Associated Press that helicopters had resumed their search for hikers who may be stranded along the popular Annapurna trail. The agency also reported that rescuers have already pulled out 78 hikers from Mustang district and 157 from neighboring Manang district since rescue efforts began Wednesday.
“I had 20 years long experience in this field as organizer, trekker and guide - I have not seen such disaster in my life," Ramesh Prasad Dhamala, president of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
He added that many of the trekkers caught in the snowstorm were unprepared. "Many of them, they didn't have enough clothes, they didn't take enough food," he said.
Nine stranded Israeli tourists were rescued Thursday, as well as three Canadians and four Indians who were pulled to safety, according to a report from the Nepalese trekking association, CNN reported.
One of the Israelis, who asked to be known only as Maya, spoke to the Guardian about the horrific circumstances she and her compatriots were faced with.
“We left at 5.30 a.m. and it was snowing but the guides said it was OK, then on the way it just turned into the biggest storm ever,” Maya said. “I just couldn’t see anything at all. It took us five hours and we got to the top of the path and into a small cabin there.
"We had to decide. Everybody was saying if you stay you are going to die. Lots of people went out, trying to get down to Muktinath, so did some of my friends. The guys who ran the tea house asked for money from us to guide us out then disappeared,” she said.
The bad weather was caused by the tail end of Hudhud, which struck India's southeastern coast on Sunday. Relatives of the missing trekkers have set up a Facebook page to share information about their loved ones.
The death toll from this incident has surpassed that of Nepal's other mountaineering disaster earlier this year, when 16 Sherpa guides were killed on Mount Everest on April 18 in the deadliest single incident in the mountain's history.