KATHMANDU, Nepal – Officials say an avalanche and a blizzard in Nepal’s mountainous north have killed at least 12 people, including four Canadians.
A statement from the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal says the bodies of five people — four Canadians and one Indian trekker — have been recovered from Phu area in Manang district.
A woman who answered the phone at a Montreal-based travel agency today said three of the people who disappeared booked their trips through them.
The woman at Terra Ultima, which books high-altitude hiking trips, says the agency is in contact with family members. She did not confirm a report the three were from Quebec.
A company called Panorama Himalaya confirmed death of its three Canadian clients in an avalanche while a company called Nepal Hidden Treks confirmed the death of a Canadian woman.
Panorama Himalaya also said it had rescued three other Canadian trekkers, according to the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal.
The death toll was likely to rise as rescuers struggled through snow and rough terrain to help dozens who remained stranded, the officials said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper took to Twitter to voice his sympathy.
“Laureen and I express our condolences to the families and friends of the four Canadians who lost their lives in an avalanche in Nepal,” he wrote.
Three villagers were killed Monday in the same district, about 160 kilometres northwest of the capital, Kathmandu, and their bodies were recovered on Wednesday.
In the neighbouring Mustang district, four trekkers caught in a blizzard died Tuesday.
Rescuers recovered the bodies of the two Poles, one Israeli and one Nepali trekker from the Thorong La pass area.
It was initially thought that group had been caught in an avalanche, but government official Yam Bahadur Chokyal said the four trekkers instead had been caught in the blizzard and died.
He said another 14 foreign trekkers have been rescued so far, and two army helicopters were picking up injured trekkers and flying them to Jomsom town.
Chokyal said it was not possible to say how many trekkers were still on the route stranded by the deep snow but several of them have reached safe ground on Wednesday because of improved weather.
Five other climbers — two from Slovakia and three Nepalese guides — were hit by a separate avalanche on Mount Dhaulagiri and remained missing.
The rain and snow in Nepal were caused by a cyclone that hit neighbouring India several days ago.
October is the most popular trekking season in Nepal, with thousands of foreigners hiking around Nepal’s Himalayan mountains.
The Thorong La pass is also on the route that circles Mount Annapurna, the world’s 10th highest peak.
An avalanche in April just above the base camp on Mount Everest killed 16 Nepalese guides, the deadliest single disaster on the mountain.
Climate experts say rising global temperatures have contributed to avalanches on the Himalayan mountains.