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Avalanche kills 12 in single deadliest accident on Mount Everest

By Ed Payne and Manesh Shrestha, CNN
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 0319 GMT (1119 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Four people remain missing, Nepal Tourism Ministry official says
  • The deadliest year on Mount Everest was 1996, when 15 people died
  • More than 300 climbers have been given permission to tackle Everest this spring
  • About 400 Sherpas will help them make the grueling ascent

Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) -- A high-altitude avalanche Friday killed 12 Sherpa guides and seriously wounded three in the single deadliest accident on Mount Everest, officials said.

Four others are missing, said Madhu Sudan Burlakoti of Nepal's Tourism Ministry, adding that six people were injured in total.

A group of about 50 people, mostly Nepali Sherpas, were hit by the avalanche at more than 20,000 feet, said Tilak Ram Pandey of the ministry's mountaineering department.

The avalanche took place just above base camp in the Khumbu Ice Fall.

Deadliest accident on Mount Everest
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Mount Everest is a journey that challenges human nature on every level. Sandra LeDuc captured this photo as climbers approached the Hillary Step, before the Everest summit. Click through our gallery to see more photos from climbers taken on Everest during 2012. Mount Everest is a journey that challenges human nature on every level. Sandra LeDuc captured this photo as climbers approached the Hillary Step, before the Everest summit. Click through our gallery to see more photos from climbers taken on Everest during 2012.
Everest: From base camp to the summit
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Everest: from base camp to the summit Everest: from base camp to the summit

The climbers were accounted for, Pandey said. "Rescue teams have gone ... to look for the missing."

Before Friday, the deadliest single-day toll was from an accident in May 1996, when eight climbers disappeared when a huge storm hit. Their tragic story was chronicled in Jon Krakauer's bestselling book "Into Thin Air."

Everest by the numbers

Readying for the climb

Between May 15 and 30 is usually the best window for reaching the 29,028-foot peak.

Climbers and guides had been setting the ropes for the route, acclimating to the climate and preparing the camps along the route when the avalanche hit Friday, said Gordon Janow with Alpine Ascents International in Seattle.

Climbers arrive in April to acclimate to the altitude before heading toward the summit of the world's highest mountain.

Ethnic Sherpas acts as guides for the mostly foreign clients.

Busiest season

The spring climbing season is the busiest of the year.

About 334 foreign climbers have been given permission to climb Everest over the next couple of months, with an estimated 400 Sherpas helping them, mountaineering official Dipendra Poudel said.

Until the late 1970s, only a handful of climbers reached the top each year. The number topped 100 for the first time in 1993. By 2004, it was more than 300. In 2012, the number was more than 500.

The deadliest year on Everest was 1996, when 15 people died. Another 12 climbers were killed in 2006.

Climbers, widow recount deadly traffic jam on Everest

On top of the world in 1963

Journalist Manesh Shrestha reported from Kathmandu and CNN's Ed Payne reported from Atlanta. CNN's Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

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