Nepal resumes search over fears of more trapped after snowstorm

Nepalese rescuers ploughed ahead Tuesday with their search for survivors still feared trapped one week after a deadly Himalayan snowstorm, as the government pledged greater reforms of the trekking industry.

Kathmandu: Nepalese rescuers ploughed ahead Tuesday with their search for survivors still feared trapped one week after a deadly Himalayan snowstorm, as the government pledged greater reforms of the trekking industry.

Rescue workers had been preparing to wind up their full-scale search, but returned to the mountains Tuesday on fresh information that trekkers may still be stranded on the popular Annapurna Circuit route. 

"Rescue operations have been continuing... as there has been some information that some people might be in affected areas with no communication with the outside world," the home ministry said in a statement.

The statement did not give details about the nationalities or the number of those feared still caught in the snow.

More than 500 people have now been airlifted to safety since a snowstorm hit the Annapurna region last Tuesday at the height of the trekking season, triggering avalanches.

At least 41 trekkers, porters, guides and others have either been confirmed dead or presumed to have perished in the disaster, according to figures released by the ministry.

Emergency workers have retrieved 33 bodies so far, but eight others remain buried in Manang district, home secretary Surya Prasad Silwal told a press briefing.

Silwal said the government would take steps to provide more training to trekking guides and maintain more accurate records of tourist numbers in mountainous areas.

"This disaster has been a great lesson for us," he said.

"We have also realised the need to provide more training to trekking guides working with foreigners so risks can be minimised."

Nepal`s prime minister has already pledged to set up a weather warning system after many of the hikers appeared to have been unaware of the snowstorm as they headed to an exposed high mountain pass in Annapurna. 

The 41 victims include 21 tourists -- among them five Indians, four Israelis, four Canadians, three Poles, two Slovakians, a Chinese and a Japanese. One tourist`s nationality could not be ascertained, the ministry statement said.

At least 20 Nepalese were also dead or presumed dead, who were 17 guides and porters and three yak herders.

Nepalese soldiers, air-dropped by choppers, camped out near an avalanche-hit site in Manang district Tuesday in an attempt to clear snowdrifts and retrieve the eight bodies, an official said.

"It has been very difficult to recover these eight bodies because of heavy snow (that`s) making access to the site tough," district official Devendra Lamichanne told AFP. 

The eight are four Canadians, an Indian and three Nepalese.

The Trekking Agencies` Association of Nepal (TAAN) earlier estimated that five people were still buried before correcting the figure to eight.

Thousands of people head to the Annapurna region every October, when the weather is usually at its best for trekking.

The disaster follows Mount Everest`s deadliest ever avalanche, which killed 16 guides in April and forced an unprecedented shutdown of the world`s highest peak. 

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