Thursday, 22 May 2014 | MYT 9:17 PM
Indian climber, two sherpas missing in Nepal
KATHMANDU, May 22, 2014 (AFP) - A female Indian climber and two sherpas are missing after being hit by an avalanche while climbing on Mount Kanchenjunga, her family and Nepalese officials said Thursday.
Chhanda Gayen and her three Nepalese guides successfully summited Mount Kanchenjunga last Sunday before attempting to scale a lower peak on a different part of the world's third-highest mountain on Tuesday.
Gayen, an experienced climber in her mid-thirties who scaled Everest last year, was on her way down from the 8,505-metre-high Yalung Kang peak on Tuesday evening when the avalanche struck at 5,500 metres, officials said.
"An Indian climber... Chhanda Gayen, and two sherpas have gone missing," said Dipak KC from the tourism ministry.
After the accident, Na Tashi Sherpa, the only known survivor from Gayen's team, alerted Seven Summits, the Nepalese expedition company handling her climb.
"Rescue operations so far have been unsuccessful. We will resume search on Friday morning," said Pasang Sherpa of Seven Summits.
The avalanche comes a month after 16 Nepalese guides were killed in the deadliest ever accident on Mount Everest, spurring a virtual shutdown of the world's tallest peak.
The disaster highlighted the huge risks taken by sherpa guides on behalf of foreign clients and fuelled demands for better death and injury benefits after the government initially offered $400 to each of the families of those killed.
The accident also sparked a labour dispute between sherpas and the government and led to a boycott by most guides that left hundreds of foreign climbers with no choice but to quit the peak.
Gayen's mother Jaya told local media in her home city of Howrah near Kolkata in eastern India that news of the avalanche reached the family when they were celebrating her success at scaling Kanchenjungha.
"We are pleading with the government to intensify the rescue operation," she said.