NEW DELHI — Eight mountain climbers missing for more than a week in the Indian Himalayas appear to have died in an avalanche, disaster response officials said Monday, citing aerial photographs that show bodies in the snow.
The climbers — four Britons, two Australians, one American and one Indian — had been out of contact since May 26, when they set off “with the ambition of summiting a virgin peak” on Nanda Devi, India’s second-highest mountain at more than 25,000 feet.
Amit Chowdhury, an official at the Indian Mountaineering Federation who is helping to coordinate search efforts with Indian forces, said operations had been hindered by bad weather. A close study of photographs taken during a helicopter flight early Monday showed at least five bodies, he said.
“It now appears that all the climbers were caught in an avalanche quite close to the spot where they had camped for the night,” Mr. Chowdhury said. “Plans are now being made to retrieve the bodies.”
According to the British Association of Mountain Guides, the original team of 12 split into two groups after reaching their base camp on May 18. One group of eight, led by Martin Moran, left for an acclimatization climb on an unnamed, unclimbed summit known as Peak 6477m. The other four climbers, led by Mark Thomas, went to prepare the route to Nanda Devi East, the lower of two adjacent peaks on the mountain. They were rescued on Sunday by Indian forces.
Both Mr. Thomas and Mr. Moran are members of the British association.
Tripti Bhatt, the commander of the State Disaster Response Force in Uttarakhand, the state where the mountain is, said the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and medical units were also involved in the search and rescue operation. The Indian Air Force ran the helicopter flights.
Ms. Bhatt would not confirm whether bodies had been spotted.
“What they have made out from the aerial recce is that there have been a series of avalanches,” she said. “We cannot give up hope, although we suspect they may have been victims of the avalanches.”
Moran Mountain, an expedition company that Mr. Moran founded with his wife, said in a statement on Sunday that the avalanche appeared to be “on or very near” the route that his group would have taken.
“We are pressing for the search area to be widened and continued until such time as firm evidence is found to ascertain the well-being or otherwise of all those in the climbing group,” the statement said.
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