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12 Sherpas killed, 4 missing in Mount Everest avalanche

At least 12 Nepalese climbers who were preparing routes up Mount Everest for commercial climbers were killed yesterday by an avalanche in the most deadly mountaineering accident ever on the world's highest peak.

The men were among a large party of Sherpas carrying tents, food and ropes who were headed out in bright sunshine in an early morning expedition ahead of the main climbing season starting later this month.

Officials said that 12 bodies had been recovered while three climbers were injured.

Four are still missing, said officials, and one rescuer said he expected the death toll to rise by at least three, after other bodies were spotted but not retrieved.

The avalanche occurred at about 6.45am at an altitude of about 5,800m in an area nicknamed the "popcorn field", due to the boulders of ice on the route.

An official told AFPthat because of deteriorating weather conditions, searches were suspended until tomorrow morning.