At least 14 local guides are reported dead following an avalanche at 21,000ft on the slopes of the world's tallest mountain, Everest. The avalanche struck the climbing party just below Camp 2 in an area called the "Popcorn Field" at 06:45 local time.
Officials told the Associated Press that Sherpa guides had risen early to fix ropes and prepare the way for the day's climb via the South Col route when the accident occurred. Nepalese tourism spokesman Mohan Krishna Sapkota said:
"We have retrieved nine bodies and rescued seven people. Five people are still missing."
Nepal tourism ministry official Krishna Lamsal told reporters bodies were still being dug out of the snow. A helicopter has now arrived from Kathmandu.
Hundreds of climbers are gathering at Everest's 17,380ft Base Camp as they prepare to attempt to scale the mountain when the weather becomes more manageable in early May.
The Nepalese Mountaineering Association says at least 14 are believed to have died. If confirmed, that would make this the deadliest accident ever to occur on the slopes of Everest. Since 1953, when Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first mountaineers to reach the summit, some 3-4,000 people have also made it to the peak of the 29,035ft mountain but an estimated 300 have died as they attempt to reach the summit.
Mountaineers and the Nepalese tourist association have spoken of their concerns in recent years that too many climbers are attempting to climb Everest, leading to dangerous congestion. Climbers often pass the frozen bodies of unfortunate people who died on the mountain and whose bodies could not be retrieved.