Search for Missing Hkakabo Razi Climbers Gets International Boost

By San Yamin Aung 18 September 2014

RANGOON — A pair of US mountaineers will join the search for two Burmese climbers who have been missing for more than two weeks on Hkakabo Razi, regarded as Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain, after a Chinese crew decided to relaunch its rescue efforts from Tibet.

Phyo Ko Ko, a spokesperson from the Htoo Foundation, told The Irrawaddy that the Chinese team that traveled to Burma last week returned to China in the face of bad weather and other hardships encountered in northern Kachin State’s Putao Township.

Htoo Foundation, the philanthropic branch of Burmese tycoon Tay Za’s sprawling business conglomerate, has pledged to aid in the search.

“They said they will try to ascend Hkakabo Razi from the Chinese side with the help of other rescue teams in China,” Phyo Ko Ko said.

The Chinese Embassy in Rangoon posted a message on its Facebook page on Wednesday, quoting a representative from the search team: “We will not delay or stop the rescue operation for any reason,” the spokesperson for the Blue Sky Search team was quoted as saying. “Now time is of the essence. We will try our best to be successful in the rescue.”

The Htoo Foundation spokesman Phyo Ko Ko said two pilots from Thailand, who are veterans of a previous rescue mission of Tay Za himself, arrived in Putao on Wednesday with a B4 helicopter to use in the operation.

A team from Nepal and more Americans are also expected to join the effort, Phyo Ko Ko said.

“We offered the international rescue teams to make the search effectively, safely and to find them as fast as we can. We have offered professional rescue teams from America, Nepal, and Thailand since the rescue mission started,” he said, adding that four helicopters were being used in the search efforts.

Phyo Ko Ko said the Americans would arrive to Rangoon on Friday morning, and would then travel onward to Putao. They were part of a team that summited Gamlang Razi last year, at the time sparking a controversy over which of the two mountain peaks was actually Southeast Asia’s tallest.

Eight climbers set out to summit Hkakabo Razi on July 31. However, only two climbers—Aung Myint Myat and Wai Yan Min Thu—were able to continue to the top because the final stretch of the climb was too narrow.

Providing their GPS location, the two men sent a message on Aug. 31 to the others when they reached the peak, becoming the first Burmese climbers to do so. They were supposed to meet back at base camp on Sept. 9 but lost contact on their descent down the mountain and have not been heard from since.