A huge avalanche struck the overnight camp of a Japanese trekking group in the Mt. Everest region of Nepal on Saturday, killing 26 people, including 13 Japanese, as they slept, rescue and hiking officials said.
The wave of snow buried 11 guides and porters, as well as two residents of the region near Everest, the world's highest peak, Takashi Miyahara, chairman of Trans Himalayan Treks, said here in the Nepali capital.
The accident was believed to be the biggest avalanche disaster to hit a trekking or mountaineering expedition in Nepal, where majestic peaks and pristine valleys attract about 65,000 foreign hikers and climbers every year.
In the worst such accident previously recorded in Nepal, 14 mountaineers, mostly Koreans, were killed by avalanches over two days in 1972.
In the latest disaster, 19 people, including 15 foreigners, were evacuated from the area after the avalanche swept over the camp at 1 a.m. Saturday, an official of Trans Himalayan Treks, which organized the trek, said.
The rescue helicopter pilot who ferried them out said after returning from a search mission that only the rooftops of houses could be seen and that the bodies were buried under snow.
Triggered by a huge cyclone in the Bay of Bengal, about six feet of snow fell in the mountainous region last week, apparently catching the trekkers off guard.