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Sunday June 2, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

Five bodies have been spotted by a helicopter search team after eight climbers - including four Britons - went missing in the Himalayas. UPDATED

According to a military source quoted by news agencies, five bodies were spotted in the aerial search on Monday.

Earlier, the Indian authorities said the chances of finding the eight missing mountaineers alive were bleak.

A major avalanche struck the area a day after the eight men and women reported that they were going to attempt to peak an unnamed summit.

Four other British climbers, who were rescued on Sunday,  joined the helicopter search to find the missing men and women.

The missing are four Britons, two Americans, an Australian and an Indian.

They began climbing India's second highest mountain, Nanda Devi, on 13th May with the four other climbers, who were rescued on Sunday after returning to base camp in bad weather.

Officials say the four rescued climbers helped to narrow down the search area. 

After the discovery of five bodies on Monday the Indian authorities said they now expected all eight of the missing climbers to have died.

It is likely to be several days before the bodies can be recovered, due to the remote location.

One of the rescue teams has reached base camp but has not yet been able to start the long climb.

"Even if we airdrop someone, he will need at least six to eight days to acclimatise before he can undertake any rescue mission," Vivek Kumar Pandey, a spokesperson for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, told the AFP news agency.

Nanda DeviNanda Devi, Himalayas















The search began on Saturday after the eight climbers were reported missing. 

Poor weather hampered progress and it resumed on Monday.

India TV has named the rescued climbers as Mark Thomas, Ian Wade, Kate Armstrong and Zachary Quain.

It's reported that they remained touch with the others until 26th May.

On 27th May, an avalanche hit the mountain. 

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

Martin MoranMartin Moran - photo Moran Mountain Facebook

His fellow British climber and friend, Alan Hinkes, told the BBC on Monday morning that Martin Moran was one of the world's best mountaineers and a 'very safe climber'.

He said the situation was very worrying.

In a statement posted earlier on the Moran Mountain Facebook page his family said they were "deeply saddened".

The BBC reports that 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.

Indian officials said on Sunday that tents had been spotted by the search team, but no signs of human presence. 

They said the chances of survival were bleak.

Nanda Devi, HimalayasNanda Devi, Himalayas

The group was climbing the Nanda Devi East peak in the Himalayas, 7,816m.

The climbers failed to return to the base camp as scheduled and a rescue team was sent to try to find them.

"We have activated resources to trace the climbers after they failed to return to the base camp, but bad weather is hindering the operation," Vijay Kumar Jogdande, a magistrate in Pithoragarh district, said to the AFP news agency at the weekend.

"We are in contact with the Indian authorities following reports that a number of British nationals are missing in the Indian Himalayas. We will do all we can to assist any British people who need our help," said the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Moran Mountain Nanda Devi teamMembers of the Moran Mountain team in India - photo Moran Mountain Facebook

British Mountain Guides (BMG) says on its website that the Expedition was made up of 12 members including two British Mountain Guides, Martin Moran and Mark Thomas, an Indian Liaison Officer and support staff.

The BMG understands that the team split into two groups. One group of four led by Mark Thomas had gone to prepare the route on ‘Nanda Devi East' and had reached Camp 2. The second group, led by Martin Moran and including the Liaison Officer set off for an acclimatisation climb on an unnamed and unclimbed Peak (referred to as Peak 6447m) above base camp.

On the 25th May a message from Martin Moran situated at a camp at almost 5400m, indicated that all was well, the weather was good and their intentions were to attempt the summit in the early hours of the following day.

From this point onwards the BMG has received conflicting reports. What follows is the BMG's current understanding of events.

When Martin Moran's group failed to return on the expected date, the base camp support staff alerted Mark Thomas by radio. Mark immediately descended from ‘Nanda Devi East' with the three climbers and returned to base camp. Mark then went on to the ‘Peak 6447m' to try to locate Martin and his team of climbers. He did not locate the climbers but did find that there had been a very large avalanche on the route that the missing climbers were expected to have taken. At this point he instructed the field support staff to alert rescue services.

During the early morning of Friday 31st May the alarm was raised. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation contacted relevant authorities and a team of rescuers was dispatched, on foot, to Nanda Devi East base camp. At this juncture the weather conditions were too harsh to fly helicopters into the mountains. This poor weather persisted throughout Saturday 1st June and again the helicopter was unable to fly.

On Sunday 2nd June the helicopter was able to fly and picked up Mark Thomas from base camp to participate in the recce the mountain from the air. No signs of the missing climbers were observed nor any evidence of equipment nor tents. The scale of the avalanche became much more apparent. The helicopter returned to base camp and during the course of the day Mark Thomas and the three climbers with him were flown out to Pithoragarh.

The BMG says it will update its website when it has more information.

It follows a higher number of deaths on Mount Everest this season.

Some have been blamed on over-crowding:

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