June 3 (UPI) -- The Indian Air Force said Monday five bodies were spotted in the Himalayas, believed to be part of a group of eight climbers, including two Americans, who had started climbing an unscaled peak in the region on May 13.
Indian officials said they now believe an avalanche may have buried the climbers near where they camped. The climbers, led by veteran British mountaineer Martin Moran, were trying to climb the Himalayan peak more than 21,200 feet above sea level.
Officials said rescuers had to postpone their search until Tuesday because of snow and heavy winds. Even then it would likely take three to four days to reach them by foot if the three missing climbers are still alive.
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic events unfolding in the Nanda Devi region of the Indian Himalaya," the Moran family said in a statement Sunday on the Moran Mountain Facebook page. "As a family, we share the same emotions that all next of kin are experiencing in not knowing the whereabouts or well-being of those closest to us.
"...There was clear evidence that a sizeable avalanche had occurred on the mountain and it seemed to be on or very near the route that would be taken by the climbing group. (Sunday) we have been informed by the Indian Mountaineering Federation that an air search by helicopter has revealed the scale of the avalanche but no sign of the climbers, their equipment nor their tents."
Ronald Beimel and Dr. Anthony Sudekum were among the missing climbers, CBS News reported. The search for the group began Saturday when they did not return to the base camp as scheduled the day before.
Other members in the group included two climbers from Britain, one from Australia and one from India.
British climber Mark Thomas, who had climbed a separate peak from Moran's group, attempted hiking to Moran's location when he did not return to the base camp and found evidence of the avalanche, British Mountain Guide website reported.
Sudekum's family told CBS the doctor was a "highly skilled" climber and believe he could have survived the avalanche.