South Koreans among seven missing in Himalayan avalanche

Agence France-Presse . Kathmandu | Published at 10:12pm on January 18, 2020

Four South Koreans and three Nepalis are missing and about 200 people have been rescued after an avalanche hit trekkers on Annapurna, one of the highest mountains in the Himalayas, officials said Saturday.

South Korea was to send an emergency team to Nepal to help in a desperate search operation.

The incident occurred at an altitude of about 3,230 metres close to Annapurna base camp following heavy snowfall on Friday.

Six of the missing are from one trekking expedition while one Nepali porter is from a different group.

‘A search operation is underway for the seven out of contact,’ Mira Acharya of Nepal’s tourism department said.

About 200 people have been rescued from the avalanche-hit zone as well as other trekking routes after the weather eased to let helicopters fly in.

Sandesh Pandey of Jangbogo Tour Nepal, which helped organise the trek, said the four were part of an 11-member team from South Korea.

‘They were descending yesterday after heavy snowfall stopped them from going higher. The remaining five from the team are moving down safely. The other two did not go up in the trek,’ Pandey said.

Annapurna is avalanche-prone and technically difficult with a higher death rate than Everest, the world’s highest peak.

Education officials in South Korea said the four were part of a team of volunteer teachers working with children in Nepal.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said an emergency team would be sent to Nepal and that the families of those missing had been informed. The volunteers were from Chungcheong province.

Thousands of trekkers visit the Annapurna region every year for its stunning views of the Himalayas.

In 2014, a snowstorm killed about 40 people on the popular circuit, in one of the biggest trekking tragedies to hit Nepal.