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Nepal: One dead and two missing in avalanche

Mugu: A Yarsagumba (Ophiocordyceps sinensis, a type of caterpillar fungus) picker died while two others went missing in an avalanche in the Mugu district of Nepal, Kathmandu Post reported.

The avalanche struck a group of 15 locals who were on their way to the highlands in Mugu on Friday to collect the caterpillar fungus. According to the District Police Office in Mugu, Purna Singh Sarki died while Tara Singh Sarki and Bir Bahadur Bohora went missing in the incident. Purna and Tara are siblings. Twelve Yarsa pickers came in contact with Mugu police late Saturday evening. Six of them sustained injuries in the incident. According to Kanna Sarki, who survived the incident, the avalanche hit them as they walked through a narrow foot trail to reach Chyarkhulek, a highland in Mugu, Kathmandu Post reported.

"The avalanche hit some 150 metres above the foot trail. We have been using the same trail for years to go to the highlands to collect Yarsa," said Kanni.
"We went to the highlands to make some money to manage food for the family members and provide education to the children. The avalanche has ruined our dream."
According to the Chief District Officer of Mugu Mohan Bahadur Thapa, a police team has been mobilised to the incident site to find out the whereabouts of the missing duo.
"Two people who survived the incident contacted us. They informed us that they have spotted the body of Purna. Two others are still missing," said Thapa, adding that efforts are on to find the missing victims, Kathmandu Post reported.

The area where the avalanche hit is at an altitude of about 5,000 metres above sea level. Rescuers are having a tough time as they do not have the tools and equipment required for high-altitude rescue work.

"We requested the Ministry of Home Affairs to search for the missing victims and rescue the injured," said Purna Singh Bohora, the chairman of Patarasi Rural Municipality.
The district administration office in Mugu decided to allow people to enter the highlands for Yarsa collection after May 18. However, hundreds of people from Mugu and Jumla reached the highlands by hoodwinking the authorities, Kathmandu Post reported.

Yarsagumba is the primary source of income for many families in several districts of Karnali, Sudurpaschim and Gandaki provinces. The precious fungus is harvested before the monsoon season, between May and June, when tens of thousands of people swarm over the Himalayan foothills. Yarsagumba is found at elevations between 3,000 and 5,500 metres and is the world's most expensive medicinal fungus.

Hunting Yarsagumba is full of risks. Many people lose their lives during the gold rush each year. Some die in avalanches and others from falling off cliffs, altitude sickness or being swept away while crossing streams. (ANI)

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