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

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.


WikiLeaks founder Assange due in court to fight extradition

Updated 19 min 22 sec ago

WikiLeaks founder Assange due in court to fight extradition

  • The 48-year-old Australian is set to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a case management hearing
  • The case is expected to take months to resolve, with each side able to make several appeals of rulings

LONDON: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is expected to appear in court as he fights extradition to the United States on charges of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer.
The 48-year-old Australian is set to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a case management hearing. Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed an order in June allowing Assange to be extradited.
US authorities accuse Assange of scheming with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a password for a classified government computer.
The case is expected to take months to resolve, with each side able to make several appeals of rulings.
The public gallery was jammed with Assange supporters, and outside the courthouse others carried placards calling for Assange to be released.
Assange has been in Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London while the extradition case is being prepared. He is facing a number of serious charges including espionage.
The first extended hearing is set for early next year but may be delayed.
Assange claims he is a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.