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.


Taliban under attack in Badghis province

In this file photo, Afghan National Army soldiers carry out an exercise during a live firing at the Afghan Military Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghan officials say around 100 soldiers fled their posts and tried to cross into neighboring Turkmenistan during a weeklong battle with the Taliban, in the latest setback for the country's battered security forces. (AP)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Taliban under attack in Badghis province

  • Several government troops fleeing the Taliban rampage crossed into neighboring Turkmenistan
  • In a statement, the ministry had said that 50 Taliban combatants had been killed

KABUL: Afghanistan’s government launched a ground and air offensive on Monday to flush out Taliban insurgents from a key area in the northwestern province of Badghis, which is close to the border with Turkmenistan, officials said.

The focal point of the operation was the Bala Murghab district where, a few days ago, the Taliban had captured dozens of government forces in addition to overrunning several parts of the district, which serves as a gateway to the northern areas for the insurgents.

Several government troops fleeing the Taliban rampage crossed into neighboring Turkmenistan, officials said. 

One provincial official and a lawmaker from the province, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said that Turkmenistan was due to hand over the troops to Afghanistan on Monday.

Sayed Mohmmad Musa, a lawmaker from the province, said that hundreds of government troops have taken part in the operation, which had resulted in the deaths of several of the Taliban’s top commanders.

“Through the operation, the government wants to not only regain the control of the district, but is also trying to free those forces who either had to join the Taliban or were captured by them several days ago,” he said by phone.

“There is heavy fighting there and the government wants to end the Taliban threat because it is a strategic location,” he said.

Meanwhile, spokesmen for the defense and interior ministries did not answer repeated calls for comment about the government’s operation and about the Taliban’s rampage days ago.

In a statement released earlier, the ministry had said that 50 Taliban combatants had been killed.

There were conflicting reports about the number of troops who were captured by the Taliban and those who had fled to Turkmenistan, while the Taliban said 90 soldiers had surrendered.

The development comes amid continuing efforts in recent months by US diplomats and Taliban delegates for finding a peaceful settlement to the war. 

Both the Taliban and government forces, backed by the US military, have stepped up their attacks in a number of areas in the country.

Ahmad Saeedi, an analyst from Badghis, said the remoteness of the province, changes in the leadership of the ministry and confusion among troops about the peace process were some of the factors for the Taliban’s gains in Badghis.

“The time of US and Taliban formally announcing a deal has become closer; this has disheartened some troops in some parts of the country to keep on fighting,” Saeedi told Arab News.

Mirza Mohammed Yarmand, a military analyst and retired general, agreed. He told Arab News: “Unfortunately, the schism and differences among the political leaders of the country have caused disruption and slowness in the conduct of responsibilities of officers in the battlefield.”

He added: “Logistical shortcomings, the amount of attacks conducted by the enemy, (the government’s) failure to transport on time the war casualties from the battle ground and the amount of time officers spend in war zone, are among the reasons for incidents such as Bala Murghab.”

“When there is difference among the leaders that certainly impacts the moral of troops,” he said.