Updated: 04/19/2014 14:09 | By Agence France-Presse

Rescuers search for Everest avalanche victims

Rescuers searched Mount Everest for bodies Saturday as authorities ruled out hope of finding any more survivors from an avalanche that killed at least 12 Nepalese guides in the deadliest accident ever on the world's highest peak.


Rescuers search for Everest avalanche victims

Rescuers help a survivor of an avalanche on Mount Everest, on April 18, 2014 - by Prakash Mathema

Four sherpas were still missing from Friday's avalanche.

The victims were among a large party of sherpas who left Everest base camp before dawn, carrying tents, food and ropes to prepare camps for foreign clients ahead of the main climbing season starting later this month. 

Nepal tourism ministry official Dipendra Paudel said search teams were trying to locate bodies buried under snow.

"There's no chance of finding the four men still missing alive. They've been under the snow for over 24 hours," Paudel told AFP.

"Our hope is to find the bodies now. But we cannot confirm a death toll of 16 until we do," he said.

The avalanche occurred early Friday at an altitude of about 5,800 metres (19,000 feet) in an area nicknamed the "popcorn field" due to ice boulders on the route leading into the treacherous Khumbu icefall.

Dozens of guides were on the move when a huge block of ice broke off from a hanging glacier, before splitting into smaller chunks and barrelling down into the icefall, one of the most dangerous areas on the route to ascend Everest.

The ice "tumbled for several thousand feet, resulting in debris that came further out into the icefall", according an account by the International Mountain Guides climbing company, which has a team stationed on the peak. 

Every summer, hundreds of climbers from around the world attempt to scale peaks in the Himalayas when weather conditions are ideal.

The previous worst accident on Everest occurred in 1996 when eight people were killed during a storm while attempting to summit the mountain, first conquered in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

In the past, some accidents have been blamed on overcrowding or on ill-prepared commercial climbers taking unnecessary risks to reach the summit before returning home.

More than 300 people, most of them local guides, have died on Everest since the first summit in 1953.

The impoverished Himalayan country is home to eight of the world's 14 peaks over 8,000 metres.

Nepal's government has issued permits to 734 people, including 400 guides, to climb Everest this summer. 

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