KATHMANDU, Jan 24: The government suspended the search for the missing trekkers in the Annapurna region on Thursday citing renewed snowfall and difficulties in digging through the hardened avalanche debris. Officials said the search will resume possibly in March. The rescuers have already identified a gorge where the trekkers might be buried.
“The area has started to witness snowfall again, and the temperature is freezing cold, which has made the search extremely difficult. The site is witnessing small avalanches also,” said Danduraj Ghimire, director general at the Department of Tourism.
“The search team has already identified the location of the missing trekkers. But, digging through the hardened-snow has been extremely difficult,” he said, adding that the search will resume only after the weather starts getting warmer and the snow starts to melt.
The gorge, where the trekkers are stuck, is about 15 meters deep.
“A Nepal Army (NA) dug through the snow throughout the day but without success. As the snowfall has started, snow will further accumulate at the site,” Ghimire told Republica, adding that search operation cannot resume until the snow starts to melt.
“Looking at the weather, it could take several weeks for the bodies buried under the snow to resurface. But, the search operation will resume right after the snow starts melting,” Ghimire added.
An NA team led by Colonel Amit Gurung was involved in the search operation since Wednesday morning.
A massive avalanche hit the Deurali area of Annapurna Rural Municipality-11 in Kaski district on Jan 17, leaving four South Korean nationals and three Nepalis missing. Following the avalanche, at least 130 trekkers and Nepali guides were evacuated from the area.
Though the government has claimed that seven trekkers are stuck in the area, tourism entrepreneurs suspect that avalanche might have hit free individuals trekkers also.
“Although the search team is equipped with high-tech devices, searching for the missing has been quite difficult due to the thick snow,” Ghimire said, further adding that search operation might start early if the weather improved.
The missing Nepali guides missing are Saroj Pariyar, Chhiring Bhote and Min Bahadur Lama.
Apart from the army personnel, Sherpas, Korean rescuers and family members of the missing Nepali guides were also involved in the search.