Three more bodies pulled from Nepal disaster zone
20 October 2014, 20:59
Kathmandu - Emergency workers in Nepal pulled three more bodies from the snow on Monday, as authorities prepared to end the full scale search for survivors of a deadly snowstorm that struck last Tuesday.
More than 500 people have now been airlifted to safety since heavy snow hit Nepal's popular Annapurna region last Tuesday at the height of the trekking season, triggering avalanches and killing dozens of people.
Six helicopters fanned out over the affected areas on Monday morning to rescue any trekkers still stuck in the region.
"Although smaller, regular rescues may continue, we hope to complete all emergency evacuations from the snowstorm today," Ramesh Dhamala of the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN) told AFP.
Another TAAN official, Keshav Pandey, said that "a few Nepalese support staff are still unaccounted for", although the industry body was not aware of any more stranded tourists.
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Nepalese officials believe most of those affected have now been pulled to safety or walked out on their own, although it remains unclear how many trekkers were in the area when the storm hit.
Police official Bikash Khanal said 502 trekkers, guides and others have been rescued since operations started on Wednesday, including 299 foreigners.
"We have recovered two bodies from Manang, and another of an Israeli woman from the Thorong Pass," Khanal told AFP.
It was not immediately clear whether these were included in the death toll of 40 previously given by the TAAN, which included trekkers who were missing and feared dead as well as those whose bodies had been recovered.
The victims include at least 26 hikers, guides and porters on the Annapurna circuit, three yak herders, and five people who were climbing a nearby mountain.
Thousands of people head to the Annapurna region every October, when the monsoon rains clear and the weather is usually at its best for trekking.
The disaster follows Mount Everest's deadliest avalanche that killed 16 guides in April and forced an unprecedented shutdown of the world's highest peak.
Impoverished and landlocked Nepal relies heavily on tourism revenues from climbing and trekking.