|Four Canadians among 12 dead in Nepal. Soldiers carry an avalanche victim|
An avalanche and a blizzard in Nepal's mountainous north have killed at least 20 people, including four Canadians, officials said.
The co-founder of Montreal-based travel agency Terra Ultima said Wednesday that three Quebecers are among those missing and feared dead.
Julien Passerini said six Quebecers in all were in the area, including those missing: two women in their 50s and one in her 30s.
One of the three is the hikers' guide.
"The group of five people, accompanied by an experienced guide, left Canada for Nepal on Oct. 3 for a three-week trip," Terra Ultima said in a statement.
"Our thoughts are with the friends and families of those who are missing."
Two Ottawa women -- Jane Van Criekingen and Virginia Schwartz --were also believed to be missing.
"We have unconfirmed reports that both Virginia and Jane are OK," Mark Schwartz, Virginia's brother, told Ottawa radio station 1310News.
A statement from the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal said the bodies of five people -- four Canadians and one Indian trekker -- were recovered from Phu area in Manang district.
A company called Panorama Himalaya confirmed the deaths of three Canadian clients in an avalanche while a company called Nepal Hidden Treks confirmed the death of a Canadian woman.
Panorama Himalaya also said it had rescued three other Canadian trekkers, according to the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal.
The death toll was likely to rise as rescuers struggled through snow and rough terrain to help dozens who remained stranded, the officials said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper took to Twitter to voice his sympathy.
"Laureen and I express our condolences to the families and friends of the four Canadians who lost their lives in an avalanche in Nepal," he wrote.
Three villagers were killed Monday in the same district, about 160 kilometres northwest of the capital, Kathmandu, and their bodies were recovered on Wednesday.
In the neighbouring Mustang district, four trekkers caught in a blizzard died Tuesday.
Rescuers recovered the bodies of the two Poles, one Israeli and one Nepali trekker from the Thorong La pass area.
It was initially thought that group had been caught in an avalanche, but government official Yam Bahadur Chokyal said the four trekkers instead had been caught in the blizzard and died.
He said another 14 foreign trekkers have been rescued so far, and two army helicopters were picking up injured trekkers and flying them to Jomsom town.
Chokyal said it was not possible to say how many trekkers were still on the route stranded by the deep snow but several of them have reached safe ground on Wednesday because of improved weather.
Five other climbers -- two from Slovakia and three Nepalese guides -- were hit by a separate avalanche on Mount Dhaulagiri and remained missing.
The rain and snow in Nepal were caused by a cyclone that hit neighbouring India several days ago.
October is the most popular trekking season in Nepal, with thousands of foreigners hiking around Nepal's Himalayan mountains.
The Thorong La pass is also on the route that circles Mount Annapurna, the world's 10th highest peak.
An avalanche in April just above the base camp on Mount Everest killed 16 Nepalese guides, the deadliest single disaster on the mountain.
Climate experts say rising global temperatures have contributed to avalanches on the Himalayan mountains.