Death toll in Nepal's worst trekking disaster reaches 43

Family members of the victims of avalanches and a blizzard stand outside a morgue as the bodies of the victims are brought to the morgue in Kathmandu October 20, 2014. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Rescuers on Tuesday pulled out three bodies of Nepali citizens killed in last week’s freak blizzards and avalanches, taking the toll in the Himalayan nation’s worst trekking disaster to 43.

The blizzards struck the Annapurna Circuit, a trail popular among Western hikers who walk around Mount Annapurna, the 10th highest mountain in the world and caught the tourists during the peak hiking season.

“Three new bodies were taken out from snow near Thorongla pass on Tuesday,” said Baburam Bhandari, chief of Mustang district, the worst among the four districts hit by the blizzards triggered by the tail end of cyclone Hudhud that struck India this month.

Officials said 518 people including 304 foreign trekkers were rescued in the operation in which more than 70 sorties were made by army and civilian helicopters.

“This is the biggest rescue operation ever conducted in high Himalayan snow and difficult mountain slopes,” said D.B. Koirala, chief of the Himalayan Rescue Association Nepal.

Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Alison Williams