Indian Air Force helicopters on Monday found the bodies of five of the eight mountaineers who went missing on their way to the Nanda Devi East peak in Uttarakhand the day before, PTI reported. The group had left Munsiyari village on May 13, and was was supposed to return to the village on June 1.

Pithoragarh District Magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande said the bodies were spotted near an unscaled peak next to the Nanda Devi East peak. The air search was conducted on the basis of clues provided by four British mountaineers, who were rescued on Sunday from a base camp of Nanda Devi.

Jogdande said the mountaineers seemed to have been killed in an avalanche while climbing the unscaled peak. “We are sending a report to the Centre,” he added. “Further rescue operation will be conducted after we get instructions. We have an expert team from the State Disaster Response Force, besides experts from Indian Mountaineering Foundation. In addition to these teams we have stationed our search teams at Laspa and Bugdiyar camps close to the Nanda Devi base camp in Munsiyari.”

KN Goswami, the sub-divisional magistrate of Munsiyari, said the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the State Disaster Response Force and the Indian Air Force would conduct search operations with the help of experts and local villagers.

The eight-member team, led by experienced mountaineer Martin Moran, included John McLaren, Richard Payne and Rupert Havel – all from the United Kingdom – Ruth Macrain from Australia, Anthony Sudecam and Rachel Bimmel from the United States, and liaison officer Chetan Pandey. However, it is not clear whose bodies were found.