POLITICS

Nepal Closes Trekking Route Where 38 Died In Snowstorms

10/19/2014 01:23 EDT | Updated 12/19/2014 05:59 EST
KATMANDU, Nepal - Nepalese officials closed a section of a popular Himalayan trekking route Sunday after rescuers, overwhelmed with last week's snowstorms that killed at least 38 people including four Canadians, had to save new hikers who set out after the blizzards on the same deadly trails.

The dead from the blizzards and avalanches that hit the upper section of the Annapurna trekking circuit in northern Nepal included foreign trekkers, local guides and villagers. Most of the hundreds of trekkers who had been stuck in the snow have been brought to safety, and government official Yama Bahadur Chokhyal said rescue helicopters were winding down flights.

But as the weather cleared, new trekkers began making their way up the same trails, prompting the government to close the route, Chokhyal said. In some sections, the trails were completely hidden beneath the heavy snows.

"Our rescuers and helicopters ended up having to bring down these new people while we were still trying to reach the ones who were stranded by the blizzard," he said.

"It was burdening and confusing the rescuers," he said.

So far, 25 bodies have been identified. Eight of the dead were Nepalese, with others from Canada, India, Israel, Slovakia, Poland and Japan. Thirteen others have not yet been identified.

The identities of the Canadians have not been made public, but a Quebec-based tour guide operator has said a group of Quebecers were among those who were taking part in the trek.

The snowstorms were whipped up by the tail end of a cyclone that hit the Indian coast a few days earlier. Hikers were caught off-guard when the weather changed quickly.

Most of the victims were on or near the Annapurna route, a 220-kilometre (140-mile) collection of trails through the mountain range. The largest number of casualties was among those caught on Thorong La pass, one of the highest points on the circuit.

With files from The Canadian Press

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