Monday, 2 March 2015

Receding glacier will reveal more bodies on Mt Cook

More bodies of lost climbers will surface at the foot of Tasman Glacier as the ice retreats and the lake expands, an alpine expert says. The remains of a two climbers have been found recently.

One find is believed to be a teenager killed in a slab avalanche in September 1973. The remains - potentially 42 years old - were found near the bottom of the glacier in late January and recovered last month by a police disaster victim identification team.

Police are awaiting DNA results before releasing the man's name.

Another set of remains were found at the bottom of the Hochstetter ice fall, as it enters the glacier, last week.

The finds were two of up to 70 people whose bodies have not been recovered after dying in Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park.

But Andrew Hobman, an avalanche and alpine safety expert with Mountain Safety Council, says the number of bodies found will start to rise now the glacier is receding and the lake it feeds into, Lake Tasman, gets larger.

"We'll see this more and more I think, more people showing up years, decades after they disappeared, as the lake grows and speeds up the melting," he told NZ Newswire.

"It happens from time to time (that bodies are found) but with temperatures rising, we'll find more." Body recovery would bring relief to families of missing climbers, many who struggle to accept that their loved one cannot be recovered at the time of the incident, he said.

The death toll at Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park now stands at 238.

In the most recent incident in late December, three men - Sydney doctor Mike Bishop, 53, and German father and son Raphael Viellehner, 58, and Johann, 27 - disappeared on the Linda Glacier.

Their bodies have not been recovered but Mr Hobman said it was very likely they too would turn up at the foot of the Tasman Glacier. "Who knows how long it will take but there's a very good chance that will happen."

Senior Constable Brent Swanson said one or two bodies are recovered this way each year in the park.

"It's not always possible to identify them but we're hopeful in this latest case that we'll be able to."

Monday 2 February 2015

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Afghan avalanches, flooding death toll rises.

The number of those killed by the avalanches and floods which submerged entire villages throughout northern Afghanistan has risen to 310, officials said on Monday.

The Panjshir Valley, where 196 bodies have been recovered so far, was the worst hit, but snow slides and flash floods have caused death and destruction throughout northern Afghanistan over the last two weeks.

Officials said there were more avalanches earlier on Monday in Panjshir Valley.

Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s chief executive and head of its disasters commission said a further 36 people had been killed in Badakhshan, while 12 had died in Nooristan, 112 in Faryab and ten in Daikundi.

The flash floods and avalanches had swept across the north of the country and claimed 316 lives and left several hundred wounded. The toll is expected to rise further.

Abdul Rahman Kabiri, acting governor of mountainous Panjshir, said Paryan and Dara districts had been worst affected by avalanches. Two more people were killed by avalanches in Abshar district on Sunday night and 14 people, including children, were wounded. Some of them are yet to be rescued.

“This is a terrible time for the people of Panjshir. Most of the wounded people are taken to hospitals but the helicopters cannot land in some parts of the rocky mountains where there is heavy snow, that is why a number of the wounded people are still in their areas”, he said.

President Ashraf Ghani pledged to set up a relief fund and called for assistance from the international community.

"The losses caused by this natural disaster are huge and there is a need for massive assistance," Mr Ghani said in a televised address. On Saturday, the president announced three days of national mourning after visiting worst-hit Panjshir province.

Gul Agha Panjsheri, 35, a resident of Panjshir’s provincial capital Bazarak, said that his cousin’s small village was hit by an avalanche three days ago.

“I was going to see them that day, but when I arrived there were a lot of people on the road and the village was missing under the snow,” he said. Two of his cousins and their parents were among the dead, he added.

Afghan authorities said it will take them at least three weeks to restore normal power to the capital.

Deadly avalanches are common in Afghanistan's mountainous areas in winter. One in the remote far northeast in 2012 left 145 people missing, presumed dead.

Monday 2 March 2015

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