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Foreign Ministry confirms 3 Israelis dead in Nepal

Agam Luria, 23, named as one of those killed; fears for 4th Israeli, out of contact since avalanche; overall toll is 29; 12 Israelis rescued, none in life-threatening condition; 100 people still missing

Agam Luria, one of the three Israelis killed in a storm while hiking in Nepal (photo credit: Facebook)
Agam Luria, one of the three Israelis killed in a storm while hiking in Nepal (photo credit: Facebook)

The Foreign Ministry confirmed reports Thursday that three Israeli trekkers were among 29 people killed in Nepal’s Himalayas.

One of the Israelis was named as Agam Luria, 23, from Kibbutz Yifat, in northern Israel’s Jezreel Valley. The other two names weren’t yet released for publication.

There were fears for a fourth Israeli, who had not been heard from since Tuesday’s avalanche.

The dead included both foreigners and locals and the death toll was expected to rise as the search continued for some 100 people unaccounted for.

As search and rescue efforts resumed Thursday morning, local officials said the bodies of 24 trekkers had been found on the popular Annapurna circuit, while five more mountaineers who were in an area hit by an avalanche could not be found and were presumed dead.

Nepalese rescuers on Thursday scoured Himalayan hiking routes for some 100 trekkers who have been out of contact since the storm hit.

Ganesh Rai, the police official in charge of the rescue effort, said emergency workers had rescued 43 stranded trekkers so far Thursday.

Rescuers were searching for two Slovakian mountaineers and three Nepalese guides who went missing after an avalanche struck teams stationed at the base camp of 8,167-meter (26,795 foot) Mount Dhaulagiri on Tuesday night.

“We are running helicopter missions to try and find them, but we can find no sign of them, we presume they are dead,” said Rai.

On Wednesday night, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that an Israeli hiker was among the dead.

Also Wednesday night, an Israeli rescue worker said that 12 Israeli trekkers were rescued and remain hospitalized in Kathmandu.

The rescue worker told Channel 10 that some were in serious condition, and “even worse.” However, reports Thursday said none was in life-threatening condition.

Those who managed to find cover in a village at the end of the Annapurna trek before the blizzard hit fared far better than those who did not, the rescue worker said, adding that those who had yet to make contact with officials or families were urged to do so.

Severe weather triggered by the tail end of Cyclone Hudhud, which battered neighboring India’s east coast, hit trekking groups on the Annapurna circuit as well as mountaineers trying to scale the avalanche-prone Mount Dhaulagiri in central Nepal on Tuesday.

As the weather cleared on Wednesday in the remote Mustang and Manang districts, rescuers trudging through waist-deep snow rescued stranded trekkers, an official said.

Some 168 foreign tourists were registered to hike in the districts and authorities are now trying to track the rest of them down, with efforts hampered by poor telecommunications.

“Many people are unaccounted for – we only register foreign nationals, but several Nepalese could also be caught up in the snowstorm,” Rai said.

Victims with minor injuries were given first aid at local hospitals while at least 14 trekkers from Hong Kong and Israel were airlifted to Kathmandu suffering from frostbite.

A Nepalese official said he hoped those trekkers still unaccounted for had simply been cut off by the blizzard and poor telecommunications.

“The phone network is not very good so we have not been able to get in touch with the missing, but we hope to find them later today,” said Mustang district official Baburam Bhandari.

Thousands of trekkers visit the Annapurna region every October, when weather conditions are deemed favorable for hiking trips. However, Mustang has seen unusually heavy snowfall this week as a result of Cyclone Hudhud, which struck neighboring India’s eastern coast at the weekend.

Last week, two Israeli tourists were killed in a rafting accident in Peru.

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