Indian authorities are working round the clock to recover the bodies of the five missing climbers in the Himalayas. Government and police officials say it will take them about ten days due to bad weather and the possibility of another avalanche. The search has also been hurdled by technical problems.
An official from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) described the rescue operation as a ‘very high risk’. Media reports said the Air Force helicopters had spotted five bodies on Monday on the slopes of India’s second highest peak, Nanda Devi. Its believed that four Britons, two Americans, one Australian and an Indian guide were killed in an avalanche last week.
The Indian Mountaineering Federation official, Amit Chowdhury said bad weather had hindered their rescue operations. “A close study of photographs taken during a helicopter flight early Monday showed at least five bodies.” Chowdhury said it appears that all the climbers were caught in an avalanche quite close to the spot where they had camped for the night. The district magistrate of Pithoragarh, Vijay Kumar Jogdande said the photographs showed the leg of one of the climbers with his shoe intact, while four others could be seen bound to each other by a rope and partly covered by snow.
The group of 12 climbers were led by Martin Moran, a highly skilled British climber with more than 30-years of experience. Moran and his team had the permission to climb the eastern peak of Nanda Devi. But a Facebook post, on May 22, by Moran’s mountaineering firm said they planned to attempt ‘an unclimbed peak’ about 21,300 feet high.
The British Association of Mountain Guides said the original team of 12 split into two groups after they reached the base camp on May 18, with one group of eight, led by Moran, left for an acclimatization climb on ‘an unnamed, unclimbed summit known as Peak 6477m’. “The other four climbers led by Mark Thomas, went to prepare the route to Nanda Devi East, the lower of the two adjacent peaks on the mountain.”
TRT World said that on Wednesday, rescue and search operations began at 5am local time, when a military helicopter with four Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) mountaineers and five Air Force personnel left the nearby hill town of Munsyari.
Vivek Kumar Pandey, a police spokesman said the ITBP climbers were dropped off at 18,000 to 20,000 feet up Nanda Devi. Pandey described the mission as a very high-risk and high-altitude operation in a zone where avalanches are frequent. He confirmed that such a high-altitude retrieval has not been carried out in the Indian mountains in recent times. .