D65

16 November 1995

Avalanches in Nepal: Australian trekkers

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises that the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu is keeping in close contact with the Nepalese authorities responsible for search and rescue operations in the areas affected by the recent avalanches.

Rescue efforts in Nepal are made more difficult because the avalanches occurred in several areas across some three hundred kilometres. These are the Gokyo area of the Khumbu/Everest region, the Manang district in West Nepal, the Kanchanjunga area and the Hwangu Valley.

An Australian Embassy consular officer yesterday flew to Lukla, the airstrip that services the Gokyo Valley, to make a first-hand assessment of the situation. Notices advising Australian trekkers to call the Australian Embassy and next of kin as soon as possible were posted in local guest houses and on prominent buildings. There is considerable frustration at long delays to scheduled flights.

The Embassy also advised that there were no reports of problems on the Annapurna base camp trek or in the Langtang region.

The Nepalese Government has mounted a considerable search and rescue effort. In the Gokyo region alone, this has resulted in 517 stranded people, including about 270 foreigners, being were heli-lifted to unaffected areas. Of these 35 were Australians.

To date there have been no reports of any Australians being killed or injured. There have also been no reports from trekking organisations or travelling companions of any Australians missing in the affected regions.

The Department fully appreciates the anxiety that family and friends in Australia might be experiencing because of lack of contact with trekkers. Unfortunately, our efforts in assisting their inquiries are hampered by the fact that communications to the affected areas are virtually non-existent.

Families should bear in mind that even if trekkers are in areas not affected by the avalanches (or are heli-lifted to safer areas), they will not normally be able to reach a telephone until they return to a major city such as Kathmandu or Pokhara.

Concerned family and friends who have strong reasons to believe an Australian traveller was in the affected areas should lodge details with DFAT's Consular Section on (06)261 3305 during normal working hours.