11 dead, 3 missing after Nepal avalanche

Rescuers search for three climbers who went missing in the Nepal avalanche that killed 11.

FILE PICTURE: Map locating Nepal's Manaslu where an avalanche killed at least 11 people and left seven climbers missing. Graphic - AL/GAL /AFP

KATHMANDU - Nepali rescue helicopters searched on Monday for at least three foreign climbers missing on a Himalayan mountain after a weekend avalanche swept away camps and killed 11 people in the worst such disaster in nearly two decades.

Seven French climbers were among the 11 victims of the avalanche that struck their camp on Mount Manaslu, the world's eighth-highest mountain at 8,163 metres.

Two German climbers and one each from Spain and Nepal also died.

Helicopters brought back five climbers from their base camp to Kathmandu on Sunday.

One of them, a German, died while undergoing treatment at a hospital in the Nepali capital, taking the number of Germans killed to two.

At least 13 more people who were rescued on Sunday were still waiting at the base camp as fog and clouds made their rescue difficult, police official Basanta Bahadur Kunwar said.

"Rescue workers have gone to pick those 13 people up and look for at least three others who are reported missing," Kunwar said from Gorkha district in North-Western Nepal, where the mountain lies.

At least 42 people were killed including 17 foreigners in heavy snowfall in the Mount Everest region in 1995, the last major disaster.

Officials said the disaster was a blow to the promotion of a tourism sector important to the economy of an aid-dependent country still recovering from a decade of civil war.

"This is not good for mountaineering. It has made us alert about how to manage the size of the expeditions and avoid casualties," Tourism Ministry official Surendra Sapkota said.

Sapkota said 232 foreign climbers had been granted permission to climb Mount Manaslu in the current autumn climbing season that started in September.

There are more than 150 local guides and support staff with them.

Climbing and trekking are major tourism activities in Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest.

Tourism accounts for four percent of the country's gross domestic product.