At least four climbers have been killed in an avalanche in the Indian Himalayas, with 26 others still missing at nightfall after poor weather hampered rescue operations, officials said.
Media reports put the toll at 10 following the incident on Tuesday at about 4,880 metres (16,000 feet) in the northern state of Uttarakhand involving a group of several dozen climbing trainees.
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“We had 42 members who were trapped in the avalanche, out of which four are confirmed dead … Twelve people have been rescued,” Ridhim Aggarwal from the State Disaster Response Force told AFP news agency.
“The operation has been halted for the night because there was heavy snow in the area … Twenty-six people are missing,” Aggarwal said.
Earlier, she said the group was stuck in a crevasse after the avalanche struck at around 8:45am (03:15 GMT) on the 5,670-metre Mount Draupadi ka Danda-II.
The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering said the group included 34 of its trainees and seven instructors.
Vishal Ranjan, registrar with the institute confirmed the four deaths and that the rescue operation “has been stopped for now because of heavy rainfall and snowfall in the region”.
“We sent two air force choppers to the region and the third one is here on standby for now because of bad weather there,” Devendra Singh Patwal, a senior disaster management official, told AFP.
Uttarakhand’s chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said the National Disaster Response Force and the Indian army have deployed teams to help with rescue efforts.
Avalanches are common in the mountainous areas of Uttarakhand. Last year, a glacier burst in the state resulting in a flash flood that left more than 200 people dead.