Nepal quake: 52 bodies found in remote valley where trekkers missing

Authorities in Nepal report 52 bodies found in quake area where locals and trekkers had been reported missing

Nepali officials said Monday that 52 dead bodies have been found in a remote valley where scores of Nepali and foreign trekkers had gone missing in an avalanche following the massive April 25 earthquake.

Seven of the bodies retrieved by search teams over the past two days in Langtang valley are foreigners, although their nationalities were not immediately clear, said Gautam Rimal, the deputy chief of Rasuwa district in north-central Nepal.

At least two Americans are believed to be among those missing in Langtang following the 7.8 magnitude temblor.

Nepali police on Monday raised the death toll from the earthquake to 7,365, with 14,366 injured, although those numbers are likely to rise as emergency workers comb through wreckage and reach remote villages.

Some 350 people have been rescued alive from Langtang valley, Rimal said. Nepali authorities say that no additional people are thought to require rescuing, and they are focusing the search effort on people reported missing.

Langtang, a region of spectacular peaks and green valleys between Katmandu and the Tibetan border that is popular with trekkers, suffered heavily in the quake. A village at the base of Mt. Langtang, about 35 miles north of Katmandu, was reportedly wiped out by an avalanche, leading officials to believe that nearly all its 200 inhabitants were killed.

Phone lines and electricity have been severed, further complicating the job of rescuers.

Relatives and friends of the trekkers have launched a social media campaign to spread information about those missing and rescued. Posters featuring the names and photos of missing foreigners – including Spanish, British, Russian and German -- have been posted at popular tourist hotels around Katmandu.

But by far the greatest number of missing are Nepali.

Also Monday, Nepali officials were weighing whether to close Mt. Everest for the rest of the year following a quake-triggered avalanche that killed 18  people at Everest Base Camp.

Many top climbing companies have called off their expeditions for the year, citing ongoing aftershocks and damage to the route leading to the world’s tallest peak.

Tulsi Prasad Gautam, director general of Nepal’s Tourism Department, said a final decision would be made after technicians known as “Icefall Doctors” – who lay down the complex series of ropes and ladders that help climbers scale one of the most treacherous stretches of the mountain – assess the safety of the route.

“The final assessment of the situation is yet to come,” Gautam said. “Our only concern is that the routes should be safe enough so that there are no casualties.”

Everest is a major source of income for impoverished Nepal, which earns some $3 million annually from climbing permits alone. But after an avalanche in 2014 killed 16 Sherpa guides and prompted officials to call off the climbing season, there have been virtually no attempts at the summit in more than a year.

Rai is a special correspondent.

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