French mountaineering team confirmed dead

24th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

KATHMANDU, Oct 24 (AFP) - Seven French climbers and 11 Nepalese mountain guides were killed in a massive avalanche last week in the northwest of Nepal, the head of the Himalayan Rescue Association said Monday.

KATHMANDU, Oct 24 (AFP) - Seven French climbers and 11 Nepalese mountain guides were killed in a massive avalanche last week in the northwest of Nepal, the head of the Himalayan Rescue Association said Monday.

"All the team members of the French Mount Kangaru expedition have died," Bikram Neupane, president of the Himalayan Rescue Association, told reporters in the capital after he visited the site and talked to rescue teams.

The private association sent a 10-member rescue team to find survivors of the October 20 avalanche, Neupane said. The lead rescuer, Padam Ghale, told him that the snow depth precluded finding anyone alive.

"Because there was so much snow, it was impossible to find anyone," Neupane said. "Even the army couldn't find anything looking by helicopter."

The team was hit by the avalanche at a 5,000-metre (16,400 foot) base camp near the Anapurna Mountain range as they attempted an ascent of the 6,981-metre (22,987 foot) Mount Kangaru.

A tourism official, who declined to be named, said Sherpas travelling with the missing climbers and trekkers reported a massive avalanche that they survived because they were camped at a lower elevation.

"Until the afternoon of October 20, the weather condition was cloudy with mild winds but it suddenly deteriorated leading to a heavy snowstorm triggering a massive avalanche which had trapped all the five tents pitched at a high altitude basecamp" he said.

Television reports said the four porters who survived were rescued by helicopters on Sunday when searchers took advantage of clearer weather on Kangaru, a minor but technically difficult mountain.

Speaking from Pokhara one of the rescued porters, Lhakpa Tshering Lama, told television stations they escaped because they were outside the tents when the snowstorm hit.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy had warned earlier Monday it was highly unlikely that any of seven French climbers would be found alive.

"The rescue mission sent yesterday (Sunday) to try to locate the team on the slopes of Mount Kangaru told our embassy this morning that, given the characteristics of the avalanche that hit the seven French climbers and their Nepalese guides, the chances of finding any survivors are unfortunately very slim," Douste-Blazy told reporters in Paris.

The French climbers were led by Daniel Stolzenberg, 60.

Bishwa Raj Dhital of Churen Treks and Expeditions, the organizing agency of the Kangaru expedition, earlier said 10 Nepalese Sherpas -- experts in the mountains -- had joined the search for the missing climbers.

"The rescue team this morning informed us that they have recovered some mountain gear including utensils and tents but not a single body has yet been found," said Dhital.

Climbers use a narrow window between the end of the monsoon rains in September and the onset of winter to scale mountains in Nepal, which has eight of the world's highest peaks including the 8,848-metre (29,028-foot) Mount Everest.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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