India starts mission to retrieve climbers bodies

Indian officials have launched an operation to retrieve the bodies of five climbers

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Indian officials have launched an operation to retrieve the bodies of five climbers

Indian officials have begun a risky mission to retrieve the bodies of five climbers discovered days after they went missing in the Himalayas.

Four Britons, two Americans, an Australian and an Indian made up the missing climbers, who had been attempting India’s second-highest peak.

Officials told the BBC the operation was “very risky” due to harsh weather, adding success would be a “miracle”.

The bodies were spotted by an Indian rescue mission on Monday.

The BBC’s Shalu Yadav, reporting from the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, said the retrieval operation was “unprecedented”.

“Authorities told us that the terrain was very difficult and if they were able to retrieve the bodies, it will be nothing short of a miracle,” she adds.

A helicopter carrying four mountaineers from the Indo Tibetan Border police and five Air Force personnel set off towards Nana Devi on Wednesday morning.

“The helicopter will attempt to drop the mountaineers on the peak. If unsuccessful, a different strategy will be adopted,” officials told the BBC.

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The 12 climbers pictured before they began their ascent

It’s believed that Nanda Devi was hit by multiple avalanches when the group was trying to scale one of the peaks there.

Contact was lost with the climbers on 26 May, a day before an avalanche hit the 7,816-metre mountain.

Four other climbers who were part of the group ascending the peak were rescued on Sunday and have since been assisting rescue efforts.

They had turned back early because of the bad weather, and were the last ones in contact with the larger group.

Who are the missing?

The missing group was being led by experienced British mountain guide Martin Moran, whose Scotland-based company, Moran Mountain, has run numerous expeditions in the Indian Himalayas.

The rest of the group have been named as John McLaren, Rupert Whewell and University of York lecturer Dr Richard Payne from the UK; US nationals Anthony Sudekum and Ronald Beimel; Australian Ruth McCance and Indian guide Chetan Pandey.

“Four bodies can be seen together and a fifth slightly away from the others,” a senior official for the nearby Pithoragarh region told Reuters news agency.

The family of Rupert Whewell says he is a very experienced climber and “the ice and rocks is where he is happiest”.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for York University said staff and students there were “extremely concerned” for Dr Payne’s safety.

Martin Moran’s family earlier said they were “deeply saddened by the tragic events”.

What about the survivors?

The four rescued climbers were named as Mark Thomas, 44, Ian Wade, 45, Kate Armstrong, 39, and Zachary Quain, 32.

They had been airlifted to safety after being spotted early on Sunday at Munsiyari base camp near Nanda Devi.

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The international group of climbers has not been heard from since 26 May

Information they provided after their rescue helped to narrow the search area to about 50 sq km (20 sq miles).

Nanda Devi is the world’s 23rd highest mountain and was first scaled in 1936.

Considered one of the toughest Himalayan peaks to climb, it attracts fewer climbers than other mountains in the region.

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