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(4th LD) 5 S. Korean climbers found dead on Himalayan mountain after snowstorm

All Headlines 20:01 October 13, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with embassy officials' remarks in paras 3, 6-8)

SEOUL/NEW DELHI, Oct. 13 (Yonhap) -- Five South Korean climbers and four Nepalese guides were found dead on a Himalayan mountain in Nepal on Saturday after they went missing in a heavy snowstorm the previous day, the Korean Embassy in Nepal said.

The bodies of nine people, including leader Kim Chang-ho, were found near their base camp located at an altitude of 3,500 meters on Mt. Gurja in western Nepal, according to embassy officials. The base camp was found destroyed by the snowstorm Friday, they said.

"They are believed to have died after strong winds swept them down a steep slope," an embassy official said. "One body was found right near the base camp, and the other eight are at the bottom of the valley."

Kim, 49, was a veteran climber who became the first South Korean in 2013 to summit all 14 Himalayan peaks over 8,000 meters without using supplemental oxygen. He also set various other world climbing records.

Kim's expedition team was comprised of six members, but one of them stayed at the foot of the 7,193-meter mountain due to health issues. As the other climbers did not return Friday, the remaining member sent a Nepalese guide to the base camp, who found the camp in tatters, embassy officials said.

This photo provided by Montbell shows Kim Chang-ho. (Yonhap)

Embassy officials said bad weather is hampering efforts to recover the bodies.

"If we're going to retrieve the bodies, we need to fly a helicopter, but we can't do so because of bad weather," an official said. "We're going to make a retrieval attempt early tomorrow morning after taking weather into consideration."

Weather is key to recovery efforts because the operation will involve a rescue worker going down a rope from the helicopter to recover the bodies as there is no place for the helicopter to land, the official said.

South Korea's foreign ministry said it is closely cooperating with the Nepalese government for the retrieval of the bodies.

"It is hard to collect the bodies with the small helicopter that we spotted them with," a ministry official said. "We will retrieve them as soon as possible."

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon expressed condolences and instructed the foreign ministry to make sure to recover the bodies as early as possible, and provide the bereaved families with as much consular and other support as possible, his office said.

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