At least 28 people were killed in Nepal this week as the tail-end of a cyclone hit a popular Himalayan hiking route. Around 220 people have been rescued from the region but many more are still missing.
Heavy winds and snow caused by cyclone Hudhud, a category 4 hurricane that started out in the Bay of Bengal, hit the Annapurna circuit causing blizzards and avalanches.
“Around 40 or 50 other hikers headed off into the storm to try ‘and we don’t know what happened to them.'”
Around 350 people were making their way over the 17,769 foot Thorong pass, the high point of the route, when the storm hit.
Yakov Megreli, an Israeli medical student, told the New York Times that he and around a dozen others spent a night piled on top of each other to ward off hypothermia, talking about anything they could think of to avoid falling asleep.
Around 40 or 50 other hikers headed off into the storm to try and get down from the pass “and we don’t know what happened to them,” Yakov said.
Survivors told how the path became completely obscured by the thick snow as visibility plummeted, making it impossible to see where they were going.
When Yakov and his group left the hut they wrote a note to whoever might visit it next, listing their names, nationalities and asking people to look for them. Or if too much time had passed, their bodies.
The Nepalese army launched their rescue operation on Thursday morning, but bodies are still being discovered more than 24 hours later as thick snow had covered many of the dead.
It wasn’t just western trekkers who were caught out by the severity of the storm – the death toll includes several Nepalis, including three local yak herders who were buried by an avalanche.
Despite many media outlets referring to the storm as a “freak” incident, this interesting article from American magazine Outside suggests that conditions like this are not unprecedented.
However it seems the severity of this storm, striking as it did on a popular tourist route right in the peak October hiking season, took everyone by surprise.
The incident is the deadliest since an avalanche on Everest killed 16 sherpas earlier this year, leading to the closure of the mountain throughout the main climbing season.