At least 20 people have been killed and over 100 are missing after a blizzard and multiple avalanches struck in a region of Nepal's Himalayas that's popular with mountain climbers.
Many of the dead are foreign trekkers. Two Israelis, two Poles and eight Nepalese were killed when a blizzard hit a point on the Annapurna Circuit, a popular mountaineering destination. According to a BBC News report, other avalanches have left 10 others dead or presumed dead, among them Canadians, Slovaks, an Indian as well as locals. A French man also died after slipping into the a river during heavy rains.
The Nepalese army, working with local mountain guides, have been attempting to rescue stricken climbers and recover bodies using a helicopter, but the weather conditions have hampered rescue efforts.
The unseasonably bad conditions were remnants of cyclone Hudhud, which struck India on Sunday. Basant B. Hamal, the secretary general of the Himalayan Rescue Association Nepal, told the New York Times that there might have been up to 200 trekkers on the mountain when the storm hit. He added that communications in the area had been disrupted by the extreme weather.
In the Manang region, three yak herders were killed in another avalanche, district official Devendra Lamichanne told the Sydney Morning Herald. He said he hoped those trekkers still unaccounted for had simply been cut off by the blizzard and poor telecommunications.
Relatives of the missing trekkers have set up a Facebook page to share information about their loved ones.
Baburam Bhandari, governor of the Mustang region, said another 14 people were rescued after the weather cleared, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We have rescued five German, five Polish and four Israeli trekkers who were trapped in the snowfall early on Wednesday," Bhandari said.
The death toll from this incident has surpassed that of Nepal's other recent mountaineering disaster, when 16 Sherpa guides were killed on Mount Everest on April 18, the deadliest single incident in the mountain's history.
Mountaineering and trekking is a huge tourism draw in Nepal, yet it can also be a high-risk endeavor. About 20 people have died in each of the past five years while either trekking or mountaineering in the country, according to a report from Dow Jones News. Nepal is home to some of the world's highest peaks, as well as the highest, Everest.
Tour operators and some climbers have received criticism in recent years, for requiring the local Sherpa guides to take what many believe are unacceptable risks to facilitate foreign tourists' climbing ambitions.