By Phil Reeves, Asia Correspondent
22 September 2003
Seven climbers, including three who have climbed Everest, were swept away by an avalanche in India and are believed to be dead. Reports said that a further two people were reported missing after being buried by a tide of snow that thundered down the slopes of 22,650ft Panchachuli mountain in the Pithoragarh district of northern Utteranchal.
Battling with severe Himalayan weather, teams of rescuers have been scouring the area for the missing mountaineers - seven climbers and two porters. Two Indian Air Force helicopters had reportedly recovered seven bodies. "We have spotted seven bodies, and of those four have been identified,'' RC Agarwal, director general of the Indo-Tibetan border police, told Star News channel earlier. The mountaineers were part of a team from the border police.
The men were returning to their base camp when the avalanche struck, after scaling the summit, the Press Trust of India said. It was one of the worst accidents in the Himalayas for many years. The expedition included three men who have climbed Mount Everest, the world's highest peak at 29,035ft; SD Sharma, Shange Sherpa and Dava Sherpa.