SEOUL/NEW DELHI -- Efforts to recover the bodies of five South Korean climbers and four local guides continued Sunday, a day after they were found dead on a Himalayan mountain in Nepal, officials said.
The bodies of the nine people, including leader Kim Chang-ho, were found Saturday near their base camp located at an altitude of 3,500 meters on Mt. Gurja in western Nepal. A helicopter found their bodies but couldn't retrieve them on the spot because of its small size, bad weather conditions and tough terrain.
|Kim Chang-ho (Yonhap)|
According to embassy officials, a bigger helicopter with four rescue crew on board left for the scene at around 7:15 a.m. (local time) as weather conditions improved, about one hour later than its initially planned takeoff.
"Fortunately, the weather conditions near the accident scene are not that bad so we could start the retrieval efforts," an embassy official said. "Still, it remains to be seen how the work will proceed due to treacherous weather situations up there."
The helicopter could not land on the site due to rough terrain with the rescue crew repelling down to retrieve the bodies. It is said that all nine bodies have been confirmed and work is currently under way to transport them to a nearby village.
Nepal authorities sent in a large chopper to provide necessary support for the recovery work.
Seoul's foreign ministry also said that it will dispatch its personnel to the area in a few days to provide help for their families' possible visit to the area and arrange the transport of the bodies to South Korea.
The nine people are believed to have died after strong winds swept them down a steep slope. One body was found right near the base camp, and the other eight at the bottom of the valley.
Kim, who led the expedition team, was a veteran climber who became the first South Korean in 2013 to summit all 14 Himalayan peaks over 8,000 meters without using supplemental oxygen. He also set various other world climbing records.
His team was comprised of six members, but one of them stayed at the foot of the 7,193-meter mountain due to health issues. As the other climbers did not return Friday, the remaining member sent a Nepalese guide to the base camp, who found the camp in tatters, embassy officials said. (Yonhap)