Kathmandu: Heavy snowfall has been impeding search operations on Mt. Everest after at least 13 people were killed in the deadliest single-day loss of life in the mountain’s history, authorities here said Sunday.
An avalanche at the elevation of nearly 5,900 metres Friday killed at least 13 Sherpas while three others are still missing, according to Nepal’s ministry of tourism and civil aviation. They had gone for rope fixing ahead of this year’s climbing season.
“The situation is not good since Saturday evening as the world’s highest peak is witnessing huge snowfall,” said Madhusudan Burlakoti, chief of the ministry’s mountaineering division.
“Rescue and search operations have been hit hard,” Burlakoti added.
Twelve Sherpas and three foreigners have been roped in for carrying out search operations.
Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa of the Himalayan Rescue Association said that “no one wants to take risk at such a dangerous site”.
A member of the search team said that they decided to “abandon the mission because there is too much risk involved”.
Many Sherpas at the Everest base camp do not want to continue work in such a situation. “People are mourning at this moment and it is a difficult situation for them,” Burlakoti said.
The local Sherpas are renowned in the international climbing community for their experience at very high altitude, making them expert guides and porters for foreign mountaineers.
Hundreds of climbers and their guides have gathered at the base camp to get acclimatised before starting the climb at the world’s highest peak early next month.
An official said the climbers are nervous after the disaster. “Such incidents make people very nervous but we have not received any report that any one has abandoned their expedition,” he said.
According to an official report, at least 334 permits for Mount Everest have been issued this year, compared to 329 issued at the opening of the spring climbing season last year.
In 1996, eight people died in what had previously been the deadliest incident in Everest’s history.