Air force pilots have spotted five bodies while searching for eight missing mountain climbers, officials have confirmed.

Indian air force pilots joined the search for eight climbers missing in the Himalayas as the operation entered its third day today.

Martin Moran, who is originally from Tyneside, was leading a party of eight who were attempting to reach the top of an unclimbed peak in a remote area.

Searches have been taking place in a bid to find the missing climbers after the alarm was raised on Friday morning.

Today, district magistrate Dr Vijay Kumar Jogdande said three bodies were found in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

The search was later suspended because of heavy snowfall and high winds.

Dr Jogdande says an operation to find the other three mountaineers will resume on Tuesday.

He said officials are consulting with the Indian army on how to retrieve the bodies.

The third day of the search on Monday was taking place in the northern state of Uttarakhand after four members of the expedition team who had stayed at base camp and were rescued on Sunday detailed the missing climbers’ plans.

Indian air force pilots were flying over an uncharted section of a mountain in the area.

Mr Moran’s family have said it was ‘not entirely clear’ what had happened to the group – which included another three British climbers – but said there was ‘clear evidence that a sizeable avalanche had occurred on the mountain’.

Mr Moran has been a mountain guide since 1985 and set up his company, Moran Mountain, which is based in Strathcarron in the Highlands, together with his wife Joy – with the couple’s grown-up children Hazel and Alex both also working for the family business.

In a statement, the Moran family said: ‘We are deeply saddened by the tragic events unfolding in the Nanda Devi region of the Indian Himalayas.

‘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.’

Academic Richard Payne, from the University of York, is believed to be among the group of missing climbers.

The university said it was ‘extremely concerned for his safety’, adding: ‘Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.’

The Moran family said the climbing group ‘had set out to attempt an unclimbed, unnamed summit, Peak 6477m, and the last contact intimated that all was well’.

As well as four Britons, the group is thought to include two American climbers, one Australian and one person from India.

Officials said that four other British members of the expedition team had been rescued.

The group, who had stayed back at the second base camp, were brought down on Sunday.

They were given first aid at a hospital in the town of Pithoragarh and later released.

They included leader Mark Thomas, 44, along with Zachary Quain, 32, Kate Armstone, 39, and Ian Wade, 45.

They had been in touch with the missing climbers until around May 26, according to the authorities.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: ‘We are in contact with the Indian authorities following reports that a number of British nationals are missing in the Indian Himalayas.

‘We will do all we can to assist any British people who need our help.’

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