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Bodies spotted during search for eight climbers missing in Himalayas

Nothing has been heard from the four Britons, two Americans, one Indian and one Australian since 26 May.

Image: Shutterstock/Dchauy

A HELICOPTER SEARCHING for eight climbers missing on India’s second-highest peak – Nanda Devi – has spotted bodies.

“Some bodies were visible during the helicopter recce. They were on the same route as the climbers had taken,” a military source said.

They added that “the chances of survival are very, very bleak” given the height of the location. It is believed five bodies have been spotted, and that rescuers would try to reach the point where the bodies had been spotted to retrieve them.

A media briefing is expected later today.

Missing

Nothing has been heard from the four Britons, two Americans, one Indian and one Australian on the 7,826-metre Nanda Devi in the Himalayas since 26 May.

After they were reported missing on Friday, a major search operation – including two helicopters, drones and dozens of mountain rescuers – has been in full swing, though it has been hampered by poor weather and the remoteness of the area.

Authorities were able to reduce the search area to roughly 50 sq km following information from four British climbers who were rescued yesterday from Nanda Devi base camp.

They had been in contact with the larger group until 26 May when heavy snowfall and avalanches struck.

A separate rescue team had reached the base camp but were yet to embark on the 90-kilometre trek upwards to the area where the eight be.

Vivek Kumar Pandey, a spokesman for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, said that taking rescuers there by helicopter was not practicable either.

“Even if we airdrop someone, he will need at least six to eight days to acclimatise before he can undertake any rescue mission,” Pandey said.

Unclimbed peak

The missing climbers, led by Briton Martin Moran — who has two previous successful ascents of the mountain — had initially set out on May 13 for the eastern peak of Nanda Devi.

But in a post on 22 May on the Facebook page of the mountaineering company he runs, Moran Mountain, he said they were set to attempt “an unclimbed peak” at 6,477 metres.

They were expected to report back to base camp on May 26 but a porter stationed there reported to authorities that the group remained missing on May 31, prompting the search operation.

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“They are all good climbers, they are not amateurs. But our aerial recces are showing certain pockets triggered by large avalanches,” Pandey said.

‘No sign’

A statement by the Moran family yesterday said they had been informed by the Indian Mountaineering Federation that the air search has “revealed the scale of the avalanche, but no sign of the climbers, their equipment nor their tents.”

The Sydney Morning Herald named the Australian member as British-born Ruth McCance. It quoted her husband Trent Goldsack as saying that her last communication to him had been a text message around a week ago saying: “OK at base camp.”

Another of the British climbers was reported to be Richard Payne, a lecturer at the University of York.

“We remain extremely concerned for his safety and our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time,” a spokesman for the British university said.

Earlier this month, Irish climber Seamus Lawless went missing on another peak, the iconic Everest. British climber Robin Fisher died at the end of May on the same mountain.

- © AFP, 2019

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