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Nine climbers killed in freak accident on rarely climbed Himalayan mountain

It is the deadliest incident to hit Nepal’s mountaineering industry since 2014.

Mountains in the Himalayas.
Mountains in the Himalayas.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

NINE CLIMBERS HAVE been killed in a freak accident during a violent storm on Nepal’s Mount Gurja.

On Friday, a helicopter dropped the mountain guides at the camp where the expedition was staying when powerful winds and snow swept through it, killing the entire team and scattering their bodies as far as 500m away.

The team – five South Koreans and four Nepali guides – had been on the 7193m mountain since early October in the hope of scaling the rarely climbed mountain via a new route. 

Attempts to reach the remote site in the Dhaulagiri mountain range in Nepal’s Annapurna region on Saturday were hampered by strong winds.

“All nine bodies have been found and the team are in the process of bringing them down,” said Siddartha Gurung, a helicopter pilot who is coordinating the retrieval mission.

Gurung did manage to reach the area and described a scene of total destruction.

“Base camp looks like a bomb went off,” said Dan Richards of Global Rescue, a US-based emergency assistance group that will be helping with the retrieval effort.

The expedition was led by experienced South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, who has climbed the world’s 14 highest mountains without using supplemental oxygen.

Mountaineering experts are questioning how the experienced team was so badly hit while still at base camp at around 3500m.

“At this point we don’t understand how this happened. You don’t usually get those sorts of extreme winds at that altitude and base camps are normally chosen because they are safe places,” said Richards.

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It is the deadliest incident to hit Nepal’s mountaineering industry since 18 people were killed at Mount Everest’s base camp in 2015, following an avalanche that was triggered by a powerful earthquake.

In 2014, 16 Sherpas were killed on Everest when an avalanche swept through the Khumbu Icefall during the busy spring climbing season. 

Then in October that year, a blizzard killed more than 40 tourists and their guides in the Annapurna region, a disaster that was largely blamed on poor weather forecasting and lacklustre safety standards in Nepal’s poorly regulated trekking industry.

© AFP 2018 

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