By Gopal Sharma
Five South Korean climbers and their four Nepali guides have been killed after their basecamp in the Himalayas was ravaged by a storm, local police and hiking officials said on Sunday.
The disaster, which claimed the life of record-breaking Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, is the worst climbing accident to hit the Himalayan nation in two years.
Police official Bir Bahadur Budhamagar said rescuers helped by locals retrieved the bodies of the nine climbers on Sunday from near their basecamp at Mount Gurja, a 7,193 metre-high peak (23,600 feet), located roughly 216 km (135 miles) northwest of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.
“The bodies of all five Koreans and four Nepalis have been identified,” Budhamagar told Reuters from Myagdi district where the disaster took place.
On Saturday, police said locals had spotted seven bodies on the mountain slopes, but emergency workers were unable to retrieve them due to bad weather.
The Korean expedition was being led by Chang-ho, who set the record in 2013 for being the fastest to reach the summits of the world’s 14 highest mountains without using supplemental oxygen, according to climbing officials.
The victims included a four-man Korean team to the Gurja mountain. They were at the base camp located at 3,500 metres (11,482) at the time of the storm. The fifth Korean was a trekker, who joined the group, according to hiking officials.
Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains including Mount Everest, and the autumn climbing season is now at its peak. Income from foreign climbers is a major source of revenue for the cash-strapped nation.