Dozens of stranded foreign trekkers have been rescued and more bodies have been found following a blizzard and avalanches in northern Nepal, taking the death toll to 27.
About 70 people are still missing along or near the popular Annapurna trail, according to the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, and the death toll is expected to rise.
The route, 100 miles north-west of the capital, Katmandu, was filled with international hikers during the peak October trekking season, when the air is generally clear and cool.
There were also many Nepalese people on the trails because of local festivals.
Government administrator Yama Bahadur Chokhyal said rescuers recovered 10 more bodies from the Thorong La pass area, where they had been caught in a sudden blizzard on Tuesday.
The bodies were not yet identified. Rescuers recovered the bodies of four other hikers – two Poles, an Israeli and a Nepalese – from the area on Wednesday.
Chokhyal said 64 more foreign trekkers were rescued from the area today. Two trekkers from Hong Kong and 12 Israelis were airlifted to Katmandu, where they are being treated in hospital.
The trekkers said they had survived by taking refuge in a small tea shop along the path.
Linor Kajan, an injured trekker from Israel, who said she was stuck in waist-deep snow, said: “I was sure I was going to die on the way to the pass because I lost my group, I lost all the people I was with and I could not see anything.
“One Nepalese guide who knows the way saw me and asked me to stay with him. And he dragged me, really dragged me to the tea shop. And everybody there was really frightened.”
Another Israeli survivor, Yakov Megreli, said they tried to stay awake in the tea shop to stay warm.
“We tried not to sleep. We tried not to get hypothermia. It was a very frightening and awful situation,” he said.
The blizzard, the tail end of a cyclone that hit the Indian coast a few days earlier, appeared to contribute to an avalanche on Wednesday that killed at least eight people in Phu village in neighbouring Manang district.
The dead included one Indian and four Canadian trekkers as well as three villagers, said government official Devendra Lamichane.
The villagers’ bodies were recovered on Wednesday.
The foreigners’ bodies were buried in up to six and a half feet of snow and digging them out will take days, he said. Three Canadian trekkers who survived the avalanche were taken by helicopter to a shelter in a nearby village.
Authorities said five climbers were killed in a separate avalanche about 45 miles to the west, at the base camp for Mount Dhaulagiri.
The climbers, two Slovaks and three Nepali guides, were preparing to scale the 26,800ft peak, the world’s seventh tallest, said Gyanedra Shrestha of Nepal’s mountaineering department. Their bodies were recovered on Thursday.
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 in the Himalayas.