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Mount Elbrus in Russia has claimed the lives of five climbers

Five climbers died on Mount Elbrus as a result of a blizzard, according to Russia's emergency services ministry on Friday, in one of the worst tragedies to occur on Europe's highest peak in recent years.

At 5,642 meters (18,510 feet), Mount Elbrus, a dormant volcano in Russia's North Caucasus region, is the highest mountain in Europe. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the mountain is experiencing a surge in domestic tourism.

The incident on Thursday occurred when the weather turned against a group of climbers who were at an elevation of more than 5,000 meters (16,000 feet).

"Unfortunately, five people lost their lives," the ministry of disaster relief said.

The remaining 14 climbers were transported to the Azau valley below, where they were rescued for nearly five hours in "extremely difficult conditions," including strong winds, low visibility, and sub-zero temperatures, according to the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources.

The climbers were accompanied by four professional guides, according to the company Elbrus Guide, which organized the commercial expedition to Mount Elbrus.

During the ascent, one of the climbers became ill and returned to the bottom with the assistance of one of the guides. She later died "in his arms," according to the company's Instagram account.

Her guide waited for the others for several hours before returning to base camp, where he called for a rescue team to come to her assistance.

An "unprecedented storm" hit the group on their way down from the summit, according to Elbrus Guide. The rest of the group continued to the summit.

One of the climbers suffered a broken leg, which caused the group to move more slowly.

According to the company, two climbers died as a result of frostbite, and two others lost consciousness and died as they were being lowered.

The guides, as well as some of the participants, were taken to the hospital with frostbite.

A criminal investigation has been launched.

Elbrus climber Anton Nikiforov, who was guiding his group for the 56th time, told television reporters that the group should have turned around earlier because of a strong wind that day.

In a hospital bed, he explained, "But I've been up in such weather before, and there have been ascents and no problems."

Currently, 11 people are being treated in hospitals, with two of them in intensive care, according to the local branch of the health ministry.

On Friday, Russian investigators announced that a criminal investigation has been opened into allegations of providing services that "do not comply with health and safety regulations."

During the summer months, the Elbrus region is a popular climbing and hiking destination, and during the winter months, it is a popular ski resort.

However, despite the fact that the ascent is not considered technically difficult, there are a number of fatalities that occur every year during summit attempts.

In May 2006, seven climbers were discovered dead on Mount Elbrus. Aside from that, they were caught out by bad weather and died as a result of the exposure.

Due to increased domestic tourism as a result of closed borders as a result of the coronavirus, the Elbrus region has recently experienced an influx of visitors.

As reported by the Interfax news agency, according to local authorities, the region received 30 percent more visitors in the first half of 2021 than it did during the same period in 2019.

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