New team flying to avalanche area today to search for 7 trekkers

Published On: January 20, 2020 07:51 AM NPT By: Muna Sunuwar  | @TheMunaSun

South Korean prez prays for speedy rescue

KATHMANDU, Jan 20: The government is sending a well-equipped high-tech team to rescue seven missing trekkers in Annapurna Rural Municipality of Kaski district on Monday. 

The rescue team consisting of members from the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) and Nepal Army will leave Kathmandu before 10 am in an army helicopter, according to the Department of Tourism (DoT). 

Four South Korean nationals and three Nepalis have gone missing since an avalanche hit the area on Friday morning. 

“The rescue team consists of experts so hopefully they will be successful in their mission,” said Danduraj Ghimire, director general at the DoT. Rescue teams deployed in the area are struggling to find the missing trekkers due to heavy snowfall in the area.

Although the government has claimed seven trekkers are missing, there are speculations that the number might go up as people go for trekking as free individual trekkers (FIT). 

A rescue team led by TAAN member Bijay KC had to return empty handed from Deurali on Sunday as the rescue efforts seemed “almost impossible” due to adverse weather. “We went to the incident site Saturday with a team of 12 locals where the avalanche occurred but to no avail,” he said, adding, “The avalanche has swept away rocks and getting through them is impossible at the moment. The rescue seems impossible until and unless the snow melts.”

The area where the incident took place is reportedly covered in more than 10 feet of snow. “By the look of it, two avalanches hit the area near Deurali and it will take at least a week for the snow to recede,” he said, adding that clearing the debris at the spot where Koreans are said to have been stuck will take as long as a month. 

He quoted the locals as saying that there were other trekkers travelling through the route at the time of the avalanche. This has raised fears that several others besides the seven identified trekkers might have fallen victim to the natural disaster. 

“Such avalanches usually occur during summer when the weather is hot and the ice melts,” KC said. Trekking entrepreneurs say that Deurali is the most dangerous area in Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) region as is prone to avalanches. 

According to Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN), the South Koreans who lost contact are Jeong Pil Bong, Lee Min Su, Choi Hyowon and Kim Sookja. Similarly, Nepali trekking guide and assistants namely Saroj Pariyar, Chhiring Bhote and Min Bahadur Lama are also missing since the incident. 

According to Yonhap News Agency, a government-funded news agency of South Korea, the four missing teachers -- two women in their 30s and 50s and two men in their 50s -- were trekking in the Deurali area of the Annapurna Base Camp trail on Friday morning in a team of nine when the avalanche engulfed them. Other members of the team have safely descended, reported AFP. 

Pokhara chapter of TAAN had also rescued Zhang Ying, a Chinese trekker and a Nepali guide Jagadish Khatri. The association issuing a press statement on Sunday had asked the government to take prompt action in such crisis. 

“Around 130 trekkers have been rescued and taken to Chomrong and Pokhara,” the statement added. 

Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in issued a statement on Twitter praying for speedy rescue of the missing trekkers.

“I, along with the South Korean people, earnestly pray for the speedy rescue of the missing teachers and local guides at Annapurna. With the Seollal (Korean Lunar New Year) holiday a week away, I am anxious, thinking of those missing, fighting for life, and their families. We will work closely with the Nepali government and do our best to search and rescue them,” he said.

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