By Sugam Pokharel and Hira Humayun, CNN
Three Nepali Sherpas are missing after being buried by a block of snow on Mount Everest, according to a statement from Nepal’s Tourism Department on Wednesday.
The trio were delivering materials to construct and clear a route to be used by climbers for this year’s spring climbing season to get to the top of the world’s tallest mountain.
According to the statement, a search and rescue operation is being carried out using helicopters and teams on the ground.
“It increasingly becomes difficult to search and rescue those buried in an avalanche. We are yet to get additional details about their whereabouts. The department is searching for them in coordination with the stakeholders,” the department’s Director General Hom Prasad Luitel told Nepal’s state newspaper The Rising Nepal.
The avalanche took place between the base camp and Camp 1 at the place called the Dam.
The area around the treacherous Khumbu icefall — a steep portion of a glacier shaped like a frozen waterfall — is one of the most treacherous sections of a route used to summit the 8,848.86 meter (about 29,032 feet) mountain. It is the Sherpas’ job to find a safe path across the heavily crevassed Khumbu glacier.
Spring is the prime time to climb Mt. Everest, although some mountaineers may climb in the less favorable autumn season.
A total of 243 climbers from 47 countries have so far received permission to the climb the mountain this spring season, according to the tourism department.
Nepal is home to eight of the 10 highest mountains in the world, so mountaineering is a significant source of revenue, employing large teams of Sherpas, guides and porters to support groups of climbers.
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CNN’s Sugam Pokharel reported from London and Hira Humayun from Atlanta.