Hopes fade for French climbers missing in Himalayas

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The three French climbers went missing while scaling a peak near Mount Everest after an avalanche hit the area (AFP/-)

Hopes faded Monday for three French climbers missing in the Himalayas after an avalanche, with their national climbing federation putting the chances of finding them alive at "practically zero".

The trio were attempting to scale Mingbo Eiger, a 6,000-metre (19,700-feet) peak near Mount Everest in Nepal, and were last heard from via satellite phone from their camp on October 26.

The French Federation of Alpine and Mountain Clubs (FFCAM) said Monday that the men appeared to have abandoned their summit attempt and turned back when the avalanche hit.

"At the bottom of the cliff face, rescuers found three bags and equipment from their bivouac," the FFCAM said in a statement.

"Hopes of finding survivors are at present practically zero."

Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, a member of the search and rescue team mobilised by the Nepal National Mountain Guides Association, said however that the operation, hampered by poor weather, would continue on Tuesday.

"We studied the location where they were said to be last spotted, and looked around the area. So far, there is nothing to share," he told AFP.

The three young climbers, named as Thomas Arfi, Louis Pachoud and Gabriel Miloche, were part of an eight-strong expedition. They had split into two groups to tackle different summits.

The FFCAM also rejected claims in local media that they did not have proper permits.

Climbers have started returning to Nepal after the pandemic forced a complete shutdown of its mountaineering industry last year and devastated the tourism-dependent economy.

The Himalayan nation of 30 million people re-opened to tourists and scrapped quarantine requirements for vaccinated foreigners in September.

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