19 Oct 2014

NZ pilot not hopeful of more survivors

1:05 pm on 19 October 2014

The death toll from a snowstorm in Nepal's Himalayas has climbed to 43, in the worst trekking disaster to hit the mountainous country.

A survivor is carried on a stretcher by Nepal Army personnel to an army helicopter.

A snowstorm survivor is carried on a stretcher by Nepal Army personnel to an army helicopter on the Annapurna Circuit. Photo: AFP / NEPAL ARMY

Tuesday's storm, which triggered avalanches, struck at the height of the trekking season, catching hikers unaware on their way up to an exposed mountain pass in the Annapurna Circuit.

Officials say 11 more bodies, of nine Nepalese people and two Japanese, were found yesterday, bringing to 43 the number known to have died.

At least 19 of the dead are tourists, and there are fears more bodies could be lying under heavy snowdrifts and ice.

Four days since the blizzard hit, officials said 385 survivors had been rescued.

'I've never seen anything like it'

New Zealand helicopter pilot Jason Laing, who has been helping rescue victims of the blizzard, said the unexpected snowstorm was atrocious.

Mr Laing was flying into Kathmandu when the blizzard hit.

Speaking from Nepal, he has told Radio New Zealand it was some of the worst weather he had experienced.

"I've never seen anything like it. My understanding - I heard the report that it snowed one metre in forty minutes."

He said many people remained unaccounted for, and communications were knocked-out in places.

Mr Laing, who will return to New Zealand tomorrow, said he was not sure many would survive after so long, and it was now a recovery operation.

He said it would take a few more days to recover the victims.

Most of those injured in the storm were foreign trekkers with their guides and porters.

Officials said 385 survivors - likely to include the survivor pictured here - have now been rescued. Photo: AFP / NEPAL ARMY

NZ woman safe in Nepal

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that a former New Zealand Hockey player trekking in Nepal is safe.

The family of Lisa Walton had not heard from her since the blizzard and avalanches struck.

Lisa Walton had been trekking in the Annapurna Ranges with her partner, Lizi Hamer.

The Ministry said Ms Walton had been in touch to say that she was safe.

Friends were using social media to also confirm both women were okay.

Radio New Zealand understands the pair embarked on the trek after the blizzard and subsequent avalanches.

Lisa Walton's family, based in New Zealand, have requested privacy.

Mike Hammock, the son of a Canterbury couple also trekking in Nepal, has confirmed his parents are not among those still missing.

Mr Hammock had told Radio New Zealand that his parents, Peter and Elizabeth Cammock, were trekking in the region and would have had to go over the pass where most of the fatalities happened.

He said in an email yesterday that the couple were "stuck waiting for some passes to clear but otherwise no issues".

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