Scores of walkers were still missing in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal yesterday, after a blizzard that is now known to have claimed the lives of more than 40 people.

Nepalese officials said that as many as 65 people may still be missing, while a website set up to help people make contact with friends and relatives lists more than 250 individuals whose status is "unknown".

The remote location, however, means that many of these may simply have been unable to get a mobile phone signal or use a charger.

The ongoing search operation found 60 survivors yesterday, taking the total number of people brought to safety to 371.


But rescuers also discovered the bodies of nine Nepalese men and two Japanese tourists, taking the death toll to at least 43, among them people from Israel, Canada and Poland.

It is the country's worst ever hiking disaster. Some 175 people have been injured. Most of the deaths were caused by avalanches that hit the popular Annapurna route, a 240km path around the world's 10th highest mountain.

Paul Cech, a Canadian trekker walking with an organised party, said yesterday that the group he was with were in a village in the Nar-Phu Valley, at an altitude of about 4100m, when the snow began.

"The guides got together and decided that it made sense to try and get down before we got snowed in," he said.

"So we started making our way down the valley. We almost got hit by one avalanche. A second avalanche hit, and seven people died."

Cech, whose Canadian friend Jan Tomlinson, a nurse, was among those killed, added: "In hindsight, the decision [to leave the village] was not a good one. All the local porters were suggesting that we did not go down. It was the foreign guides who made the decision."

"The main message we're trying to get out is that if you are somewhere where you have shelter, heat and food and it starts to snow -- in Nepal or anywhere [mountainous] -- then stay where you are."

- Independent