Five bodies spotted by pilots during Himalayas search for climbers

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Five bodies have been spotted during the hunt for eight mountain climbers who went missing in the Indian Himalayas.

The bodies were seen by Indian air force pilots on Monday before the rescue operation was suspended due to severe weather conditions, officials said.

The operation is expected to resume on Tuesday.

The group – thought to be four Britons, two Americans, one Australian and one person from India – disappeared in the Nanda Devi region of the Himalayas following an avalanche.

The team, led by British mountain guide Martin Moran, was attempting to reach the top of an unclimbed peak in a remote area.

Four other British members of the expedition have already been rescued.

Searches have been taking place in a bid to find the missing climbers after the alarm was raised on Friday morning.

They were last in touch with base camp on May 26, now more than a week ago.

District magistrate Dr Vijay Kumar Jogdande said the bodies were found on Monday before the rescue operation in the northern state of Uttarakhand was suspended because of heavy snowfall and high winds.

Officials are consulting with the Indian army on how to retrieve the bodies, AP reported.

The family of Mr Moran, who is originally from Tyneside, said it was “not entirely clear” what had happened to the group but said there was “clear evidence that a sizeable avalanche had occurred on the mountain”.

Mr Moran has been a mountain guide since 1985 and set up his company, Moran Mountain, which is based in Strathcarron in the Highlands, together with his wife Joy – with the couple’s grown-up children Hazel and Alex both also working for the family business.

In an earlier statement, the Moran family said: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic events unfolding in the Nanda Devi region of the Indian Himalayas.”

Academic Richard Payne, from the University of York, is believed to be among the group of missing climbers.

The rescued group, who had stayed back at the second base camp, were brought down on Sunday and given first aid at a hospital in the town of Pithoragarh before later being released.

They are Mark Thomas, 44, Zachary Quain, 32, Kate Armstone, 39, and Ian Wade, 45.

Authorities said they had been in touch with the missing climbers until around May 26.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “We are in contact with the Indian authorities following reports that a number of British nationals are missing in the Indian Himalayas.

“We will do all we can to assist any British people who need our help.”

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