At least four people died and several others were missing in the Indian Himalayas after a group of 41 mountaineers was hit by an avalanche on Tuesday, the mountaineering institute in northern India said.
The group, consisting of 34 mountaineering trainees and seven instructors, was hit by the avalanche at 8.45am local time, the institute said.
The group was hit by an avalanche on a mountain peak located in the Gangotri range of the Garhwal Himalayas on Tuesday morning, said Ashok Kumar, the Uttarakhand state police chief. Rescuers pulled eight survivors from the snow and took them to hospital.
The Press Trust of India news agency reported 10 had died.
Four bodies were recovered while officials from the state and national disaster response forces and the Indian air force scoured the area, said the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, part of the defence ministry.
“The Indian air force is doing an aerial recce of the mountain where this happened. It is not easy to reach the spot,” Kumar said.
The trainees, preparing for high altitude navigation, were returning from the Draupadi ka Danda-II mountain peak of 5,670 metres.
Uttarakhand state’s top elected official, Pushkar Singh Dhami, said the national disaster response force and Indian military sent teams to help with rescue efforts. The Indian air force sent two helicopters to search for the missing.
“It has happened for the first time in the history of Indian mountaineering that such a large group of trainee mountaineers has been killed in an avalanche,” said Amit Chowdhary, an official at the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation and a former Indian air force officer.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh said he was “deeply anguished” by the loss of lives: “My condolences to the bereaved families who have lost their loved ones.” Avalanches are common in the mountainous areas of Uttarakhand. In 2021, a glacier burst, resulting in a flash flood that left more than 200 people dead.