The bodies of three Israelis killed in an avalanche in the Himalayas were transferred to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu on Friday ahead of their return to Israel. Another woman who took part in the ill-fated hike remains unaccounted for and is feared dead.
Michal Cherkasky, 36, from the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim, was on the trek through Annapurna and hasn’t been heard from since Tuesday. Foreign Ministry officials on Friday made contact with dozens of Israelis with whom they’d lost communication since the deadly blizzard, but Israeli Ambassador to Nepal Yaron Meir said 50 Israelis are still listed as out of contact.
Among the confirmed fatalities are three Israelis, named Thursday as Agam Luria, 23; Nadav Shoham, 30; and Tamar Ariel, 24. Ariel was the first religious woman to become an Israeli Air Force combat navigator. Their bodies were airlifted by helicopter to Kathmandu and will be flown back to Israel for burial.
According to an account in Ynet, Shoham helped drag Ariel and others toward safety and insisted he be the last airlifted out.
“He carried Tamar the navigator, he also helped others until he finally depleted his strength,” Shoham’s uncle told the news site. “He had a big heart. He would not have left anyone in the field. It was in his DNA.”
Nepalese daily the Himalayan Times put the death toll of Israelis at 6 Friday morning, and said a dozen more were unaccounted for, citing an Israeli-run tour company.
However, the Israeli Foreign Ministry did not confirm the report.
Twelve Israelis are said to be among the injured in hospitals in Nepal. Many of those injured required medical treatment for frostbite. Among them was a young woman, who told Ynet she saw her friends die before her very eyes.
“Some of them didn’t make it and went into hypothermia. Before they died. They asked us to ask their parents and families for forgiveness,” said the woman who identified herself using the first letter of her name, S.
“We lost good people on the way. Beautiful, wonderful people.”
According to a Channel 10 report, the Israeli government believes that even among the dozens who’ve yet to be reached, there are no further injuries. There was no confirmation of this claim, however.
“We will go to great lengths in order to know what has happened to each and every one of them,” Meir said.
Rescuers have already pulled out 78 trekkers from Mustang district and 157 from neighboring Manang District since rescue efforts began on Wednesday.
The Nepal government was earlier criticized for not helping enough. It was initially only the army attempting the rescue with their two helicopters on Wednesday and later joined by private trekking operators.
The Annapurna trekking route, 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of the capital, Kathmandu, was filled with foreign hikers during the peak October trekking season, when the air is generally clear and cool. There were also many Nepalese on the trails because of local festivals.
Authorities said five climbers were killed in a separate avalanche about 75 kilometers (45 miles) to the west, at the base camp for Mount Dhaulagiri. The climbers, two Slovaks and three Nepali guides, were preparing to scale the 8,167-meter (26,800-foot) peak, the world’s seventh tallest, said Gyanedra Shrestha of Nepal’s mountaineering department. Their bodies were recovered Thursday.
An avalanche in April just above the base camp on Mount Everest killed 16 Nepalese guides, the deadliest single disaster on the mountain. Climate experts say rising global temperatures have contributed to avalanches in the Himalayas.