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World's tallest mountain has its deadliest day as the slide caught sherpas off guard.

Everest avalanche kills 12, leaves four missing

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Friday, April 18, 2014, 6:31 PM -

An avalanche has killed 12 people on the slopes of Mount Everest, with four still missing and at least two others injured.

The dead are all sherpas, Nepalese guides tasked with aiding climbers to the summit. They had ascended early morning Friday to prepare the route for climbers when the avalanche occurred.

The Sherpa guides had gone to fix ropes for other climbers when the avalanche struck an area known as the "popcorn field'' for its bulging chunks of ice at about 6:30 a.m., Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said from the base camp, where he was monitoring rescue efforts.

Four survivors were injured badly enough to require airlifting to a hospital in Kathmandu. One arrived during the day, and three taken to the foothill town of Lukla could be evacuated Saturday. Others with less serious injuries were being treated at base camp.

An injured survivor told his relatives the path up the mountain was unstable just before the avalanche struck at an elevation just below 6,400 metres. As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers, guides and climbers rushed to help.

Hundreds of climbers, along with their guides and support teams, are gathering at Base Camp to prepare to climb the world's tallest peak. The sherpas' preparations were part of that effort to lay the groundwork for the ascent, set for early in May when conditions become more favourable.

Rescuers and climbers rushed to help as soon as the avalanche hit, recovering 12 bodies and still searching for the missing.

This is believed to be the deadliest single incident on Everest. In 1996, eight climbers died in a snowstorm, while in 1970, six Nepalese guides died in an avalanche.

More than 4,000 climbers have ascended to the summit since 1953, but hundreds have died in the attempt.

Earlier this year, Nepal announced several steps to better manage the heavy flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations. The steps included the dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 5,300 metres, where they will stay throughout the spring climbing season that ends in May.

With files from the Associated Press.

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