Kathmandu: Helicopters scoured the icy Himalayan peaks in western Nepal looking for four foreign climbers still missing in a deadly avalanche on the 8,156 metre Mount Manaslu which left 12 mountaineers dead, including eight Frenchmen.
The helicopters were pressed into service as a number of foreign expeditions attempting the peak were trapped by falling walls of snow near the base camp in Gorkha district, 350 kms west of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.
Twelve climbers including eight French nationals and a Sherpa guide were killed in the avalanche, said Jimba Jangbu Sherpa, President of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA).
Others who were killed include one Italian, one German and one Spanish climber, according to Sherpa.
Eighteen western tourists were rescued alive from the avalanche site, according to Tourism Ministry officials.
Of them, eight people, who were seriously injured, have been airlifted to Kathmandu for treatment. Ten tourists, who sustained minor injuries, had been provided with first aid treatment at the base camp.
The avalanche swept away the team of climbers at an altitude of 7,300 meter as they headed towards the summit. Manaslu, the world`s eighth highest peak may not be as luring for the climbers as Everest or Annapurna, but it has dubious distinction of being branded a `killer peak`.
So far, the peak has claimed 53 mountaineers between 1956 when it was first ascended and 2006, with only 300 climbers making it to the top so far.
The group of French climbers were sleeping in their tents when they were hit by cascading snow, burying nine. Three other European climbers were also hit by the avalanche. Four other foreign tourists are still missing in the incident and search operation has been continued to locate them.
Three helicopters and dozens of security personnel have been mobilised for the rescue works. So far eight dead bodies have been brought to Kathmandu from the accident site on Monday.
This is the second biggest tragedy in Himalayas in Nepal involving foreigners after a flash flood in Pokhara, the tourist hub of western Nepal in May in which at least two dozen foreign tourists were killed.