KATHMANDU (Reuters) - An avalanche swept away climbers and their camps on the world’s eighth highest mountain in northwestern Nepal on Sunday, killing at least 10 people, officials said.
Mountaineering officials in Nepal and France said they had been told most of the dead climbers were French.
“There were seven French victims ... We got the information directly from base camp,” said Denis Crabieres, head of the French Mountain Guides Association. He said rescue operations on Mount Manaslu had been stopped until morning.
A former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, Ang Tshering Sherpa, said most of the dead were French and that other victims were from Italy, Germany and Spain.
A French Foreign Ministry spokesman would not confirm any deaths but said “at least three” French climbers had been rescued and were being treated for injuries.
Nepalese authorities said earlier that the dead included climbers from Nepal, Germany and Spain, and that four people were missing. Five injured climbers were rescued by helicopters and flown to the capital Kathmandu.
German climber Andreas Reitero, 26, said he was sleeping in his tent when the avalanche struck at about 4 a.m. local time (2315 GMT on Saturday). His camp was about 7,000 meters (22,950 feet) above sea level.
“It was a big sound. I was afraid,” Reitero told Reuters from hospital in Kathmandu after being rescued by a helicopter from the mountain, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of the capital.
“I was so confused that I can’t say how far I was swept away or how many people were there in the camp at the time of avalanche,” said the climber, who is being treated for a back injury. “I had luck. I did not go far enough and was (left) outside ... not buried under snow.”
Reitero was one in a group of 13 climbers - 11 Germans and two Austrians. One German member of the group died, he said.
Police Inspector Basant Mishra said the bodies of a German climber and a Nepali guide were recovered from the snow on the 8,163-metre (26,781-foot) mountain.
“Rescue pilots have spotted seven other bodies on the mountain,” Mishra said. A
Sources at the Spanish Foreign Ministry said one of the dead climbers was Spanish, without giving further details.
The accident took place at 7,000 meters (22,950 feet), making it difficult for land rescue teams to reach the scene.
Helicopters were dispatched to the remote area to look for those missing after the early morning accident, but cloud and fog were complicating rescue efforts, Mishra said.
Hundreds of foreign climbers flock every year to Himalayan peaks in Nepal, which has eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest. September marks the beginning of the autumn climbing season which runs through November.
In the last major accident, at least 42 people including 17 foreigners, were killed in heavy snowfall in the Mount Everest region in 1995.
Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid and Lionel Laurent in Paris; Editing by Ron Popeski and Pravin Char