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Rescuers search Pakistan peak for missing Italian, British climbers

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy Feb 28, 2019, 09.24 PM (IST)

Rescuers were searching Thursday for a missing Italian climber and his British climbing partner in Pakistan after efforts were delayed by the country's closure of its airspace over tensions with India.

Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard were last heard from on Sunday as they climbed Nanga Parbat in the western Himalayas, a peak known as "Killer Mountain".

"The camp 3 tent has been spotted from a helicopter, buried under snow. Traces of avalanches can be seen," Nardi's team reported on the climber's Facebook page.

"We are waiting for more photographic information and video from the base camp and from Pakistani aviation," it said.

The rescue teams had been forced to wait for permission to send up a helicopter after Pakistan closed its airspace on Wednesday in response to escalating tensions with India.

The searchers have called in Pakistani Muhammad Ali Sadpara, who climbed the peak two years ago, Nardi's team said.

The British Foreign Office said it was "assisting the family of a British man who has been reported missing in Pakistan".

Chris Bonington, mountaineer and a family friend of Ballard, told BBC Radio 4 earlier Thursday that the pair were "attempting a very, very difficult route up Nanga Parbat, up the Mummery spur, which is the most direct route up".

"And they were trying to do it in winter, which is by far the toughest time. They'd certainly been having bad weather throughout, a lot of snowfall and it was also bitterly cold.

He said the temperature was believed to be minus 40, which may have drained the batteries on their phones.

"There's still hope that they are alive, and that they are ok, admittedly in very dangerous circumstances," he said.

Bonington said Ballard was "very much an extreme climber, taking after his mum", Alison Hargreaves, who was a famous mountaineer who died on K2.

"It is a very very dangerous game.

"I am very lucky to be alive. I've been climbing for what, 60 years, very nearly and I've had at least 10 times when I was just unbelievably lucky to get away with it. I think extreme climbers at altitude actually are lucky to survive," he said.

Story highlights

Rescuers were searching Thursday for a missing Italian climber and his British climbing partner in Pakistan after efforts were delayed by the country's closure of its airspace over tensions with India.