KATHMANDU - At least 20 people, including eight foreign hikers and a group of yak herders, were killed in Nepal by unseasonal blizzards and avalanches triggered by the tail of cyclone Hudhud, officials said on Wednesday.
Rescue officials said the death toll could rise as dozens of other foreigners and locals who had been trekking were out of contact due to poor communication links and could have been caught in blizzards.
Two climbers from Slovakia and three Nepalese guides were also reported missing.
The hikers' deaths come during the peak trekking season in Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountain peaks, including Mount Everest.
For the past two days, Nepal has been lashed by heavy rains brought on by the cyclone that has battered neighbouring India. The weather triggered blizzards at high altitudes.
The bodies of a Nepali citizen, two Polish nationals and an Israeli hiker were found along a popular trekking route in the Thorang-La area near Annapurna, the world's 10th highest mountain, said Baburam Bhandari, governor of the district of Mustang, where the incident took place.
Bhandari said the group perished in a blizzard.
"We have rescued five German, five Polish and four Israeli trekkers who were trapped in the snowfall early on Wednesday," Bhandari told Reuters by telephone, without giving details. One German tourist fractured his leg, he said.
Police said eight Nepalis had died in Mustang, an apple growing area bordering Tibet, which is about 150 km (93 miles) northwest of the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, and is popular among foreign hikers.
Separately, in the neighbouring district of Manang, four Canadian hikers and an Indian national were killed in an avalanche, the district's most senior bureaucrat, Devendra Lamichhane, told Reuters.
"The pilot of a rescue helicopter spotted the bodies in snow," Lamichhane said. "But it is not possible to retrieve their bodies because it is snowing heavily in the area now."
Three yak herders were killed after being swept away by a separate avalanche at Nar village in Manang, officials said.