Rescue delays 'put climbing trio at risk'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 August, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 August, 1998, 12:00am

Three missing mountaineers could die because of delays and bickering with a mainland climbing society, a friend said yesterday.

Engineer Chan King-chuen, 29, deputy bank manager Lam Chi-wai, 33, and decorator Yeung Chi-ho, 35, have been lost for nine days on Bogda Shan in Xinjiang.

Hong Kong climbers are on their way to help in the search and have asked the Xinjiang authorities to resume efforts in the meantime.

The Xinjiang Climbing Society, which is organising the rescue, called off its search on Sunday after eight days, having found the trio's equipment and materials.

Society chief secretary Nan Guohuan said they lacked the equipment and experts to continue the search in deteriorating weather.

'We have only amateur mountaineers here. All they can do is provide back-up services for the Hong Kong rescue team. We are awaiting their arrival,' said Mr Nan.

'We have also sent a helicopter to help, but it can't stay in the air for long. The Hong Kong side said it was useless if the helicopter couldn't stay for long. So we have to discuss with them to see if the helicopter is needed any more.' The Ngok Fung Rock Climbing Society, of which the three missing mountaineers are members, is sending people to Xinjiang today with new equipment.

But spokesman Chan Chi-toa said there were many experienced mountaineers in Urumqi, including foreigners.

'If the Xinjiang side asks them for help, I'm sure they will be willing to lend a hand. The most urgent thing right now is to resume the search immediately.' He said his team would take equipment with them.

'But I have to stress that they aren't a rescue team. They are there to help. We still think the best thing is for the Xinjiang side to take immediate action. Water from afar can't help quench the fire nearby. The longer the delay, the less chance there is of finding them alive,' said Mr Chan.

Mr Nan dismissed Mr Chan's suggestions as 'impractical'.

He said foreign mountaineers had their own agenda and their visas limited their stay.

Conditions on Bogda Shan were so bad that 'people can't walk, they can only crawl'.

'It is easy to give suggestions when you are sitting comfortably thousands of miles away,' he said.