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Search for American missing on Chinese peak possibly to end amid avalanche fears
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19:01, June 10, 2009

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With the danger of a major avalanche looming, the search for the last missing American climber on Mt. Gongga in southwest China's Sichuan Province is likely to end in two days, rescuers said Wednesday.

The weather had been extremely bad since Tuesday, when a U.S.-China search team of eight top climbers returned to the mountain to seek Micah Dash, said Lin Li, general secretary of Sichuan Mountaineering Association.

Rain and fog had cut visibility to merely dozens of meters and large stones kept falling, Lin said, quoting rescuers.

The search for Dash, 32, one of three climbers, continued but his chances of survival were very slim, Lin said. "The search can not persist for long, as a landslide may kill us all," he added.

Two other bodies were previously found.

One body, found Monday, had been identified as the youngest team member Wade Johnson, aged 25. He was found in snow 4,000 meters above sea level by a team that included three leading Chinese climbers -- deputy head of the China mountaineering team Tsenor, coach Li Qingfu and the provincial mountaineering association coach Li Zongli, Lin said.

The other body was that of well-known climber Jonathan Copp, 35, found just 300 m from Johnson's body on Saturday, said Li.

The bodies would be brought down the mountain when the searchers evacuated, Lin said.

The Americans disappeared after a series of avalanches, said Li Zhixin, of the Chinese Mountaineering Association, on Sunday.

They were part of a team of two climbers and two photographers, who had planned to ascend the summit of Mt. Gongga (Mt. Edgar), 6,400 m above sea level, on May 1 and return on May 28.

They were part of a team of four, one of whom returned early. When the rest failed to return as scheduled, the search began on June 3.

Mt. Gongga is the highest peak in Sichuan and one of the seven highest mountains open to the public in China. Only 24 people have reached the summit, and 22 have died on the mountain.

Source: Xinhua

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