Nine members of a South Korean climbing expedition were killed after a violent snowstorm swept them off a cliff on Nepal's Mount Gurja, one of the deadliest mountaineering accidents to hit the Himalayan nation in recent years.
The bodies of eight climbers - four South Koreans and four Nepali guides - were spotted near the wreckage of their camp by a rescue team Saturday morning, but strong winds were hampering the search effort.
A fifth South Korean climber was initially reported missing, but officials have now confirmed that he was at the camp when the deadly storm hit Friday and is believed to have also perished.
"A mountain expedition of five South Korean nationals and four foreigners were swept off by strong winds at the base camp during their climb to Mount Gurja. (They) fell off a cliff and died," the South Korean foreign ministry said in a statement.
Helicopter pilot Siddartha Gurung was among the first people to reach the site after the deadly storm and described a scene of total destruction.
He said all the tents had been flattened, reduced to a tangled mess of tarpaulin and broken polls, and the climbers' bodies were scattered across a wide area, including some in a river bed some 500 metres (1,640 feet) away from the main camp.
"Everything is gone, all the tents are blown apart," Gurung told AFP.
Gurung landed a helicopter just above the expedition team's camp and attempted to descend to the campsite with a group of local villagers, but icy and unstable conditions meant they were unable to retrieve any of the bodies.
Rescue officials tried to send a second helicopter to the site Saturday afternoon but it was unable to fly due to strong winds, police spokesman Sailesh Thapa told AFP.
Another attempt will be made Sunday, he added.
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