June 4, 2019
By Sankalp Phartiyal
PITHORAGARH, India (Reuters) – Indian authorities are preparing to recover the bodies of five climbers believed killed in an avalanche, though officials said on Tuesday it could take several days to coordinate the retrieval.
Eight climbers – four from Britain, two from the United States, and one each from Australia and India – were reported missing by colleagues on Friday after they failed to return to their base camp near Nanda Devi, India’s second highest mountain.
A huge rescue mission was launched and on Monday an Indian air force helicopter spotted five bodies partially buried in snow.
The status of the other three climbers is not known, though officials have said the possibility of their survival is remote, and their bodies could be near the five that have been spotted.
On Tuesday, officials met to discuss how to retrieve the bodies from below a remote, unnamed 6,477 meter (21,250 foot) peak the team was attempting to climb.
Vijay Kumar Jogdande, the top government official in Pithoragarh, a mountain town in Uttarakhand state where the recovery effort is being coordinated, said a team to collect the bodies still needed clearance from government agencies, including the defense ministry.
“I have requested the permissions,” he told Reuters.
“We will discuss the plan with the heads of the concerned agencies. The plan is not prepared right now.”
Jogdande said relatives of the missing had yet to arrive in the town and rescuers were still unsure what to do with the bodies of the climbers if they were recovered.
“No one has spoken to me, no one is here. So who will take the bodies, that is also one question,” he said.
Four other climbers – all British – were evacuated by helicopter from their base camp over the weekend after reporting that their colleagues were missing. They are helping authorities with the recovery effort.
(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal in PITHORAGARH; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Robert Birsel)