Unusual rains accompanied by snowstorm which swept through western Nepal, have reportedly killed at least 21 people, including 12 foreigners, and left scores missing. Eighteen have been rescued from different incident sites in Manang and Mustang districts on Wednesday.
The Home Ministry has, however, put the number of deaths at 11.
Three persons, believed to be local yak herders were found dead in Nar-4 village in Manang on Tuesday. With this, the snow blizzard toll reaches 24 in the past two days.
A team of security personnel recovered 16 bodies, including that of seven foreigners, from Dump Camp located at an altitude of around 5,000 metres along the famous Annapurna Circuit, after passing Thorong La (5,416 metres above sea level) and Muktinath in Mustang district on Wednesday afternoon.
According to Chief District Officer of Mustang, Baburam Bhandari, the trekkers are believed to have been trapped under the heavy rains accompanied by snowstorm that lashed the region since Monday evening. Among the 16 bodies recovered from Mustang, three are of Polish nationals, three Israelis and one Vietnamese but their identities are yet to be ascertained. The remaining bodies belong to Nepali citizens.
"The snow blizzard is likely to have happened on Tuesday morning," Bhandari said, adding that the district authority along with the security forces was only informed late on Tuesday.
In another incident, the bodies of five foreign trekkers-four Canadians and an Indian-were recovered from Mamlang in Nar Phu village on Wednesday. The trekkers had gone missing since Tuesday, according to DSP Rajendra Babu Regmi.
The period between October and November is considered the peak tourist season in Manang and Mustang.
"We are issuing entry permit for 280-300 people daily these days," said Junu Kumari Gurung, a staff based at Dharapani in Manang under the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACAP) that administers the tourist flow in the region.
On Sunday, a total of 356 people including trekkers and their associates had reached Manang on their way to Muktinath in Mustang after passing the Thorong La. However, only 244 people have made it to Muktinath so far, said Bidur Kuinkel, chief at Mustang section of ACAP.
Five people, including two Slovakian trekkers, have been missing in Dhaulagiri region in Myagdi district since Tuesday. Eight other Slovaks of the same expedition team were rescued from the site on Wednesday.
Several places in Nepal started witnessing sudden change in weather patterns due to the influence of cyclone Hudhud that made landfall in India's Andhra Pradesh on Sunday afternoon. The western and central districts in Nepal experienced the severity of Hudhud effect with some places along the Tarai plains experiencing heavy rains and snowfall in the high-altitude areas, crippling the normal life.
Weathermen and experts had forecast the direction of cyclone to be north-west that would have impacted some places including high-altitude regions in the far-west in Nepal.
"But the cyclonic movement unexpectedly turned the earlier predicted direction on Monday night towards the north-east, which ultimately hit the central part intensely," said Suman Regmi, chief at the Meteorological Forecasting Division.
The core of the heaviest rain of the cyclone Hudhud hit the central region, affecting the Annapurna region, the famous trekking routes in the country.
"The trekkers were informed about possible impact of Hudhud in the Far-west so they set off for the trek in the Annapurna region. However, suddenly the cyclone changed its direction and affected the area," Regmi said.
The weather condition is gradually improving from Wednesday morning in many parts of the country, including the Annapurna region. "We expect improved weather throughout the country from Thursday ," Regmi said.