Nepal vows warning system after deadly Himalayan snowstorm

Nepal's prime minister has pledged to set up a weather warning system after a major Himalayan snowstorm killed 32 people at the height of the trekking season, 17 of them tourists.

AFP| Last Updated: Oct 18, 2014, 01:25 AM IST

Kathmandu: Nepal's prime minister has pledged to set up a weather warning system after a major Himalayan snowstorm killed 32 people at the height of the trekking season, 17 of them tourists.

Forecasters had predicted the snowstorm, but many hikers appeared to have been caught unawares and were heading to an exposed high mountain pass that forms part of the popular Annapurna Circuit trekking route when it struck.

Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said the loss of life was "extremely tragic at a time when worldwide weather updates are available every second" and pledged to provide better weather information in tourist areas.

"I want to assure that the government will make efforts to establish early warning centres for weather in the important spots across the country, especially in the Himalayan areas and along rivers," he said in a statement yesterday.

On Friday, emergency workers on foot and in helicopters resumed their search for survivors, rescuing 48 more people, including at least 14 tourists, a day after they airlifted more than 150 to safety, officials said.

"We have located 41 people who were stranded at the Thorong La pass, including at least a dozen foreigners," said Bishnu Bhattarai, an official at the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN), an industry body.

Workers had earlier rescued seven others, including two French tourists.

Thousands of people head to the Annapurna region every October, when weather conditions are usually clear.

The Annapurna Circuit is particularly popular among tourists, and has come to be known as the "apple pie" trek for the food served at the small lodges, known as teahouses, that line the route.

But many were unprepared for the conditions on the Thorong La pass, which bore the brunt of Tuesday's unseasonal snowstorm.

Eighteen-year-old trekker Max Weinstein told AFP that hotel staff had told him and a fellow hiker that it was "totally safe" to head up to the pass, which climbs over 5,000 metres (around 16,000 feet).