A rescue mission to find four South Korean climbers and three Nepali guides was put on hold Sunday as more avalanches descended on the popular Nepalese climbing track.
Officials announced Sunday that the missing individuals were believed to have been caught up in a snow slide but the effort to locate them could take up to 20 days due to bad weather.
“They are waiting for the weather to clear to start looking for the missing tourists,” Tourism Department official Mira Acharya told Reuters news agency.
One of the rescuers, Bijay KC, said that even if the weather cleared it would take several weeks for the snow to melt, hampering the overall operation.
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Among the missing are two women in their 30s and 50s and two men in their 50s, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. They are believed to be part of a small team of South Korean nationals who came to Nepal for volunteer work.
Five other South Korean members of the same team are said to be safe and seeking shelter in a lodge.
The Friday avalanche struck the famous Mount Annapurna circuit climbing route after rains and snow earlier in the week.
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the avalanche hit at an altitude of 3,230 meters (10,600 feet).
Acharya said earlier that around 200 trekkers had been rescued from other parts of the hiking trail by helicopter over the weekend, adding that the new, smaller avalanches would put rescuers at risk.
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Higher death rate than Everest
According to Yonhap, South Korea dispatched an emergency response team of two government workers and officials from an education body and a tourism agency to the capital, Kathmandu, to help with rescue operations.
A second rescue mission will be deployed once the snow and ice stop falling.
“The weather and snow got worse and, feeling it was becoming dangerous and difficult, they decided to turn. As they were heading back the avalanche hit,” Ang Dorjee Sherpa of the Korean Alpine Federation told AFP news agency.
Family members of the missing South Koreans have arrived in Kathmandu alongside officials sent by Seoul to help with rescue efforts, Ang Dorjee Sherpa said.
In a Facebook post, South Korean President Moon Jae-in promised the utmost efforts to find the missing hikers, Yonhap reported.
Annapurna is an avalanche-prone mountain range with a higher death rate than that on Mount Everest. Thousands of trekkers visit the route every year.
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