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Four presumed dead in Nepal avalanche

HONG KONG, China -- An Australian air force officer, his partner and her child are missing, presumed dead, after being hit by a freak avalanche in Nepal. A fourth person, an Israeli, is also missing.

The Australian trio, on an acclimatization trek ahead of an attempt to climb Mount Everest, were part of a support team for the first all-Australian group to attempt to climb Everest.

The Australian embassy in Katmandu confirmed the accident and the Ambassador to Nepal is now traveling to a base camp where efforts to retrieve the bodies are being launched.

A defense spokeswoman told the massive avalanche on Saturday was a freak event in an area which is one of the most popular treks in Nepal.

She said the accident occurred when an ice cliff fell off Hiunchuli Peak at Mount Annapurna.

None of the 12 member Army Alpine Association Tenix Everest 2001 expedition were injured as the missing group had moved ahead of the team.

An Australian Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman says relatives have been informed of the accident.

The team had planned to reach the summit of the world's tallest mountain by June.

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