Nepal rescuers retrieve bodies of nine climbers

Members of the Nepali rescue team look on during the rescue operations for the bodies of nine climbers killed at Mount Gurja in the Dhaulagiri mountain range of Nepal's Annapurna region on Oct. 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 14 October 2018
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Nepal rescuers retrieve bodies of nine climbers

  • The team had injuries, including head wounds and broken bones, consistent with being hit by powerful winds
  • The accident is believed to have happened either late Thursday or Friday, but there are no surviving witnesses

KATHMANDU: The bodies of nine climbers killed on Nepal's Mount Gurja were retrieved from the mountainside Sunday as rescuers tried to piece together what led to the freak accident.
Rescuers found the bodies of the South Korean climbing expedition scattered across the base camp amid the broken remains of their tents and equipment.
The team had injuries, including head wounds and broken bones, consistent with being hit by powerful winds, but rescuers say it most likely caused by the powerful downblast from an avalanche not a storm.
"It seems that seracs (glacial ice) and snow fell from high on the mountain and the strong gusts of winds from that hit the campsite, throwing the climbers off," said rescuer Suraj Paudyal who reached the site Sunday.
The remote camp at around 3,500 metres was located next to a gully that acted as a funnel for the mass of snow, ice and rocks brought down by the avalanche creating a powerful kickback of wind that decimated the team.
It took a helicopter several trips to bring the bodies -- five South Koreans and four Nepalis -- down from the camp in the Dhaulagiri mountain range of Nepal's Annapurna region.
They initially were flown to Pokhara, a tourist hub that serves as a gateway to the Annapurna region, and will be brought to Kathmandu later Sunday, said Yogesh Sapkota of Simrik Air, a helicopter company involved in the effort.
"Base camp looks like a bomb went off," said Dan Richards of Global Rescue, a US-based emergency assistance group that helped with the retrieval effort.
The accident is believed to have happened either late Thursday or Friday, but there are no surviving witnesses.
The alarm was raised only on Saturday morning when the team had not been in contact for over 24 hours, said Wangchu Sherpa of Trekking Camp Nepal, who organised the expedition.
A helicopter was sent to investigate and spotted the bodies, but strong winds prevented the rescue team from retrieving the dead.
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.
The team had been on 7,193-metre (23,599-foot) Mount Gurja since early October, hoping to scale the rarely climbed mountain via a new route.
A sixth South Korean climber was staying at a village lower in the valley when the storm hit, after being forced to a lower altitude by health problems.
Only 30 people have ever reached the summit of Mount Gurja with the last successful ascent recorded in 1996, according to the Himalayan Database.
The freak accident is the deadliest incident to hit Nepal's mountaineering industry since 18 people were killed at Mount Everest's base camp in 2015 in an avalanche triggered by a powerful earthquake.
The previous year, 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.


Four charged over MH17, Russia slams ‘unfounded allegations’

Updated 19 June 2019
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Four charged over MH17, Russia slams ‘unfounded allegations’

  • Investigation team said in May 2018 that BUK anti-aircraft missile which hit Boeing 777 had originated from 53rd Russian military brigade
  • One of the accused Girkin, who is thought to be living in Moscow, denied the separatists were involved

NIEUWGEIN: International investigators on Wednesday charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with murder over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the first people to face justice over the tragedy five years ago in which 298 people were killed.
The trial of the four men with military and intelligence links will start in the Netherlands in March next year, although they are likely to be tried in absentia as neither Russia nor Ukraine extradites their nationals.
Moscow slammed the “absolutely unfounded accusations” over the downing of the plane, which was traveling between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a missile over part of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian rebels.
The Dutch-led inquiry team said international arrest warrants had been issued for Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, all of whom are suspected of roles in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic.
Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the four were to be held responsible for bringing the BUK missile system from Russia into eastern Ukraine “even though they have not pushed the button themselves.”
“We won’t demand their extradition because Russian and Ukrainian law forbids the extradition of their nationals. But we ask Russia once more to cooperate — many of our questions remain unanswered,” he told a press conference.
The same investigation team said in May 2018 that the BUK anti-aircraft missile which hit the Boeing 777 had originated from the 53rd Russian military brigade based in the southwestern city of Kursk.
Relatives of those killed aboard MH17 welcomed the news.
“It’s a start. I’m satisfied,” Silene Fredriksz, whose son and daughter-in-law were killed in the disaster, told reporters. “I am happy that the trial is finally going to start and that the names have been announced.”
Asked if she personally blamed anyone for the crash, Fredriksz said: “Mr (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. Because he made this possible. He created this situation. He is the main responsible person.”
Piet Ploeg, president of a Dutch victims’ association who lost three family members on MH17, told AFP that it was “very important news.”
“The relatives of the victims have been waiting for this for nearly five years,” he said.
Girkin, 48, is the most high-profile suspect, having previously been the self-proclaimed defense minister in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine before apparently falling out with the Kremlin.
Girkin, who is thought to be living in Moscow, denied the separatists were involved. “I can only say that rebels did not shoot down the Boeing,” he told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
Dubinskiy, 56, who was formerly in the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, was head of the intelligence service of the Donetsk People’s Republic, while Pulatov, 52, an ex-soldier in the GRU’s Spetznaz special forces unit, was one of his deputies.
Kharchenko was a military commander in Donetsk at the time, the Dutch prosecutors said.
During the press conference by the investigators, number of telephone intercepts were played that they said showed the four were involved.
Russia vehemently denied all involvement, and complained that it had been excluded from the probe.
“Once again, absolutely unfounded accusations are being made against the Russian side, aimed at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the international community,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.
Russia insisted last year that the missile was fired by Kiev’s forces, adding that it was sent to Ukraine in the Soviet era.
Despite claims by Ukraine’s government and Dutch media that senior Russian officers would also face charges, none were named by the prosecutors on Wednesday.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the attack includes Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, representing the countries hardest hit by the disaster.
The Netherlands and Australia said in May last year that they formally “hold Russia responsible” for the disaster. Of the passengers who died, 196 were Dutch and 38 Australian.
Australia said Wednesday’s announcement was a “significant step” toward achieving justice, while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said it was “an important milestone in the efforts to uncover the full truth.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry urged Russia to “acknowledge its responsibility,” while the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s said he hoped to see “everyone who is to blame for the murder of innocent children, women and men” go on trial.
The war in eastern Ukraine and the MH17 disaster continue to plague relations between Russia and the West.
Since 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed. Kiev and its Western backers accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms to back the separatists. Moscow has denied the claims despite evidence to the contrary.