SYDNEY, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Around eleven people are feared dead in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea after a group of over 30 local Christians became lost on their way to a religious celebration.
A search and rescue effort continued on Monday and so far has returned 21 people to safety and recovered one body, helicopter rescue pilot Jurgen Ruh told Xinhua.
"We fear for another 14, out of which 11 are said to be deceased," Ruh said.
According to local media reports, the group set off for a religious celebration in the town of Kabwum around 10 days ago before becoming lost in the Saruwaged Ranges of Morobe Province.
The celebration was to mark the 100th year since German missionaries arrived in the area on Aug. 10, 1919.
It is believed that the pilgrims were unprepared for the difficult terrain, with rescuers dropping warm clothes, blankets and food to those still trapped on the mountain.
Difficult weather conditions and limited aircraft have hampered efforts to rescue the remaining members who are located at an elevation of roughly 10,000 feet.
"We dropped 8 trekkers in this morning to look for the deceased," Ruh said.
"Efforts will continue in the morning, the trekkers will give us smoke signals when they hear the helicopter."