Search continues for bodies of French climbers

25th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

KATHMANDU, Oct 25 (AFP) - Rescuers found the body of one member of an 18-strong French-led mountain climbing team killed in a massive avalanche in northwest Nepal five days ago, officials said Tuesday as the search continued.

KATHMANDU, Oct 25 (AFP) - Rescuers found the body of one member of an 18-strong French-led mountain climbing team killed in a massive avalanche in northwest Nepal five days ago, officials said Tuesday as the search continued.

The president of the privately-run Himalayan Rescue Association in Kathmandu, Bikram Neupane, said rescuers at the scene had not yet identified the body of the dead climber, but said the victim was a French national.

Seven French and 11 Nepali climbers, all part of an expedition attempting to summit the 6,981-metre (22,987-foot) Mount Kangaru, were hit by the avalanche at a base camp located at 5,000 metres on October 20.

On Monday, Neupane told reporters there was no hope of survivors.

"All the team members of the French Mount Kangaru expedition have died," Neupane said here after he visited the site and talked to rescue teams.

Efforts were underway to find the remaining bodies, he said.

The initial rescue effort was hindered by bad weather for several days after the avalanche, with eight to 10 metres of snow blocking the path to the base camp, keeping rescuers an hour's walk away even on Monday, Neupane said.

Nepal Mountaineering Association president Ang Tshering Sherpa said Tuesday that efforts to find bodies would be difficult because the area being scoured is a snow-covered gorge where temperatures drop drastically at night.

"The minimum temperature now at the mountain would be minus 15 degrees Celsius (five degrees Fahrenheit)," Sherpa said.

"The place is a gorge and there is a lot of snow so even though nearly 21 rescue members are combing the area, they still have not been able to find anything except the body of a French climber Tuesday morning," he said.

Four porters, who were camped at a lower elevation and outside their tents when the avalanche hit, survived and were rescued by helicopters on Sunday when searchers took advantage of clearer weather on Kangaru, a technically difficult mountain to climb.

Neupane said discussions were underway with the French embassy and government officials on how to proceed ahead of the winter which would make it difficult to send in teams to search for bodies.

"A French alpine team is also coming to help," Neupane said.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy had warned 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.

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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