‘Army might stop search operation today’

Published On: January 23, 2020 07:36 AM NPT By: Ashim Neupane  | @ashimnep

KATHMANDU, Jan 23: Though the Nepal Army has started searching for the trekkers missing in the avalanche-hit area of Annapurna Rural Municipality, it might stop the operation from Thursday as rescue equipment has traced what are possibly bodies of the trekkers in a deep gorge, it has been learnt.

A nine-member team led by Colonel Amit Gurung traced the bodies of the missing in a deep gorge covered by hardened snow, and the rescue team is making a last-ditch effort today (Wednesday), an official at the Department of Tourism said.

“The rescue team has already dug about six meters in the gorge, but there have been no positive results,” the official said, adding that high-tech equipment has identified the gorge as the location of the missing trekkers.

“The gorge is about 15 meters deep. Digging through hardened snow is quite difficult,” the official said, adding that a dog sent by the army to the avalanche-hit area has also identified the gorge as the location of those missing.

“As the temperature is extremely low, the hardened snow is not melting any time soon. If bodies are not found tomorrow [Thursday], the search operation will resume only after it gets warmer and the snow starts melting,” the official said.

A massive avalanche hit the Deurali area of Annapurna Rural Municipality-11 in Kaski district on Friday, leaving four South Korean nationals and three Nepalis missing. Following the avalanche, at least 130 trekkers and Nepali guides were evacuated from the area.

The government and tourism entrepreneurs tried to carry out a search operation. But due to the bad weather, rescue choppers failed to land in the avalanche area. An army helicopter finally landed there on Tuesday after several attempts.

On Tuesday, the government sent a helicopter equipped with a high-tech device to the avalanche-hit area and it traced the possible location of trekkers who are missing following the avalanche last week.

The rescue team has been digging in the location traced by the high-tech device. Apart from army personnel, Sherpas, Korean rescuers and family members of the missing Nepali guides are also in the area for the search.

Tourism entrepreneurs suspect that more trekkers might have been hit by the avalanche. On Wednesday, Hari Bhujel, president of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal, reached the District Administration Office, Kaski, to expedite the search operation as  trekkers who were out on their own might also have been hit.

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