Everest avalanche: Search continues for missing guides

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Media captionA major search operation is continuing on Saturday

The search for three missing Sherpa guides on Mount Everest has resumed after 13 were killed by an avalanche.

The avalanche struck around 06:45 local time (01:00 GMT) on Friday in an area known as "popcorn field", just above Everest base camp at 5,800m (19,000ft).

The Sherpa guides had climbed up the slope early on Friday morning to fix ropes for climbers and prepare the route for mountaineers.

The incident is the deadliest accident on the world's highest mountain.

Madhusudan Burlakoti, chief of the ministry's tourism industry division, told the BBC that several mountaineers along with high-altitude doctors are involved in the search.

He said three seriously injured climbers that were rescued from the mountain are still receiving medical treatment in Kathmandu.

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Image caption Sherpas often prepare the route for the mountaineers to follow

The avalanche struck a perilous passage called the Khumbu Icefall, which is riddled with crevasses and large ice boulders that can break free without warning.

Although relatively low on the mountain, climbers say it is one of its most dangerous points - but there are no safer paths along the famous South Col route first scaled by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

An injured survivor told his relatives that the path was unstable just before the avalanche hit.

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Media captionMountaineer Alan Hinkes, speaking on 5 live: "It's an area where accidents happened before"

"I sat and counted 13 helicopter lifts - 12 were dead bodies flying overhead suspended by a long line from a helicopter," Tim Rippel of Peak Freaks Expeditions wrote in a blog post.

The body of a 13th climber was recovered on Sunday.

Sherpas often make 20-25 round trips to carry kit and supplies to advanced camps, exposing them to greater risk. The most endangered are the so-called Icefall Doctors - a team that maintains and fixes the route.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Sherpa people are one of the main ethnic groups in Nepal's alpine region

It was the first major avalanche of this year's climbing season on Everest, which has been scaled by more than 3,000 climbers.

The rising number of tourists has raised concerns about safety and environmental damage, although Nepal still plans next year to cut fees for those wishing to do the trek.

The government has issued permits to 334 foreign climbers this season, up from 328 for the whole of last year. An equal number of guides also climb to help the foreign mountaineers.

Some 250 climbers have died on the mountain, which is on the border between Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet and can be climbed from both sides.

Eight climbers died in 1996 during a fierce storm and the disaster eventually formed the basis of best-selling book Into Thin Air.

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