The death toll from Tuesday’s avalanche in northern India has risen to 26, making it one of the deadliest disasters in recent mountaineering history.
On Thursday, teams digging through a field of debris located the bodies of 15 missing mountaineers. On Friday morning, rescuers found seven more bodies. Both finds were announced by the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, the mountaineering school that was leading the 41-member 18,600ft Draupadi Ka Danda II expedition when the avalanche hit.
According to several reports, three people are still missing. Crews hope to get the bodies to lower altitudes in the coming days, but bad weather is hampering recovery.
“Efforts are being made to bring the bodies to Matli Heliport by advanced light helicopter today,” Ashok Kumar of Uttarakhand Police said on Friday.
According to reports from India time and other outlets, the disaster occurred on the Dokriani Bamak Glacier around 8:45 a.m. Tuesday. The Indian Express reports that the group consisted of 42 people: 34 students, seven instructors and a nurse. The avalanche trapped at least 30 party members.
The Asia Net News website interviewed one of the survivors, named Rohit Bhatt, who said the avalanche hit the group when they were at 18,000 feet above sea level, a few hundred feet below the Mountain peak.
“The avalanche was so massive that we didn’t even have time to think about anything. In a few minutes, everything turned white because of the snow. Many of our fellow trainees and instructors got trapped in the debris,” Bhatt said.
Bhatt said the massive landslide buried climbers and pushed others into a 60ft crevasse. Bhatt said he was able to save himself using his ice axe.
“If we had had even ten seconds, we could have saved more lives,” he said.
Rescue operations began on Tuesday afternoon, with The Washington Post reporting that two Indian Air Force helicopters assisted in the search, alongside separate Indian Army and National Rescue Force rescue teams. By Tuesday evening, crews had rescued 12 climbers and located ten bodies, 20 of which were still missing on the mountain.
On Wednesday, crews located the body of one of the instructors, Savita Kanswal, an accomplished mountaineer. Earlier this year, Kanswal became the first Indian woman to climb Everest and Makalu in 16 days.
The disaster happened in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, near the country’s border with China. The remoteness of the area slowed down rescue operations, as did bad weather on the glacier.
“Fresh snow, massive crevasses and accessibility are a major challenge as it takes about two days to walk from Bhatwari to Tela and Jungle Chatti to reach the area,” said Piyoosh Rautela from the disaster management authority of the region. ‘Uttarakhand. The Times of India.
The Indian Express reported that the climbers had been taking backcountry safety and mountaineering courses since September 14 and had already taken a rock climbing course before their expedition to the glacier. The group was undergoing their high mountain safety training on the glacier and had arrived at base camp at the end of September. They were taking part in a high altitude navigation course when the avalanche happened.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the disaster on Tuesday evening, saying: “It is sad that we have lost the lives of people associated with a NIM Uttarkashi mountaineering expedition. Condolences to the bereaved families. »
This story is developing.