KATHMANDU, Nepal - Officials say at least nine people are dead and several others missing, including a Canadian, after an avalanche hit climbers on a high Himalayan peak in Nepal today.

Many of the climbers were French or German but the U.K.-based The Telegraph website reported that one of the missing people is Canadian.

Dipendra Paude of Nepal's tourism ministry, which controls all international climbing expeditions, told The Telegraph the dead climbers were from Spain, Germany and Nepal.

The Telegraph said the missing included five French nationals, a Canadian and an Italian climber.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa could not immediately confirm that a Canadian was among those missing.
But Chrystiane Roy says Foreign Affairs officials have been in contact with authorities in Nepal.

"We are following the developments closely and stand ready to provide consular assistance should there be a need," Roy said Sunday. "Our thoughts are with the victims (and their families) of this avalanche."

Police official Basanta Bahadur Kuwar said the bodies of a Nepalese guide and a German man were recovered and that rescue pilots had spotted seven other bodies on the slopes of Mount Manaslu in northern Nepal, the eighth-highest mountain in the world.

In Madrid, Spain's Foreign Ministry said one of those killed was Spanish, but did not release the person's identity.

The identities of the other victims were still being confirmed.

Ten other climbers survived the avalanche but many were injured and were flown to hospitals by rescue helicopters, Kuwar said.

Rescue pilot Pasang, who uses only one name, said three injured French citizens and two Germans had been transported to hospitals in Kathmandu.

He said rescuers were also attempting to bring the bodies of the dead back to the base camp.

Weather conditions were deteriorating and it was not possible to continue air searches of the mountain Sunday afternoon, Kuwar said.

The avalanche hit the climbers at a camp at 7,000 metres (22,960 feet) early in the morning as they were preparing to head toward the summit, which is 8,156 metres (26,760 feet) high.

There were Italian, German and French teams on the mountain, with a total of 231 climbers and guides, but not all were at the higher camps, officials said.

It is currently the beginning of Nepal's autumn mountaineering season. The autumn season comes right after the end of the monsoon rains, which make weather conditions unpredictable, and is not as popular among mountaineers as the spring season, when hundreds of climbers crowd the high Himalayan peaks.

Nepal has eight of the 14 highest peaks in the world. Climbers have complained in recent years that climbing conditions have deteriorated and risks of accidents have increased.

Veteran mountain guide Apa, who has climbed Mount Everest a record 21 times, travelled for months across Nepal earlier this year campaigning about the effects of global warming on the mountain peaks.

He told The Associated Press the mountains now have considerably less ice and snow, making it harder for climbers to use ice axes and crampons on their boots to get a grip on the slopes.

Loose snow also increases the risk of avalanches.

Officials were investigating the cause of Sunday's avalanche.

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