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(5th LD) 4 S. Korean trekkers go missing after avalanche hits Annapurna

SAT 2020 18 JAN 07:08:PM (GMT: SAT 2020 18 JAN 10:08:AM)

(ATTN: UPDATES paras 4-5)

SEOUL/NEW DELHI, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- Four South Korean trekkers have gone missing after an avalanche hit the circuit trekking route of Annapurna in Nepal, Seoul's foreign ministry said Saturday.

The incident took place at an altitude of 3,230 meters around 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. (local time) on Friday, according to the ministry.

Five other South Korean members of the crew took shelter at a nearly lodge after the four trekkers, along with two local guides in the advance team, lost contact. The five have now been transferred to a safe place, authorities said.

Nepalese authorities began land and air search operations, but have yet to find the missing trekkers, according to the ministry, as inclement weather conditions are making the search difficult.

This EPA-Yonhap file photo shows Annapurna in Nepal in 2017. (Yonhap)

The missing trekkers -- two women in their 30s and 50s and two men in their 50s -- are teachers who were staying in Nepal for volunteer work. Officials said they appear to have gone on a weekend trekking trip.

The South Chungcheong Province Office of Education said a total of 11 teachers from 10 schools left South Korea on Monday to take part in the program that was scheduled to run until Jan. 25.

The other two teachers remained at their accommodations on the day of the hike due to health issues.

A South Korean emergency team comprised of officials from the foreign ministry and the education office, as well as the tourism agency, left for Nepal earlier in the day. Six members of the affected people's families accompanied the officials.

The South Korean mission in Nepal has requested active rescue operations in the area from the local authorities and vowed utmost efforts to provide necessary support to the families of the missing people, the ministry said.

This photo, taken on Jan. 18, 2020, shows officials at the South Chungcheong Province Office of Education gathered at the headquarters in Hongseong, 150 kilometers south of Seoul, after four South Korean teachers went missing while trekking in Annapurna, Nepal, the previous day due to an avalanche. (Yonhap)