Helicopters reach Mount Everest base camp to rescue avalanche victims

MOUNT EVEREST, Nepal (AFP) - Helicopters began landing at Mount Everest base camp on Sunday to rescue victims of an avalanche that has killed at least 14 people, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

Six helicopters landed at base camp in Nepal, according to the agency's Kathmandu bureau chief Ammu Kannampilly after weather conditions improved overnight.

"People being stretchered out as choppers land - half a dozen this morning," Mr Kannampilly said in a text message. "Weather clear, some snowfall."

A spokesman for Nepal's Tourism Department, which issues the permits to climb the world's tallest mountain, said that the death toll had risen to 14 and could increase further. Mr Shinji Tamura, a guide with the Himex tour group, said that least 40 people were injured in the avalanche which was triggered by a massive earthquake that killed more than 1,800 people in Nepal alone.

"Nobody knows how many are missing," Mr Tamura told Mr Kannampilly.

Snowfalls on Saturday had thwarted efforts to airlift survivors.

Hundreds of mountaineers have gathered at base camp for the start of the annual climbing season, which was cancelled last year after 16 sherpa guides were killed in what was the deadliest disaster in the mountain's history.

Google executive Dan Fredinburg was the only climber killed to have been identified so far.