Reuters International

KATHMANDU/MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A 34-year-old Australian woman has died while descending from the summit of Mount Everest, local officials in Kathmandu said on Sunday, the second death on the world's highest mountain in as many days.

The death of Maria Strydom on Saturday was also confirmed by Monash University in Melbourne, where she worked as a lecturer. Officials in Nepal said efforts were being made to take her body down from the mountain.

Two Indian climbers went missing on the mountain on Saturday in the high slopes known as "death zone", said Wangchu Sherpa of the Trekking Camp Nepal company.

"They are out of contact for more than 30 hours now and it is not clear if they had climbed the peak," Sherpa said, adding that two other Indians were being escorted by sherpa guides to lower camps with injuries and frost bite. More details were not available because of poor communication with the team, he said.

The death of the Australian woman was the second on Everest this year and could hit mountaineering in Nepal, where a massive earthquake last year killed at least 18 people at Everest Base Camp.

On Friday, Dutch climber Eric Ary Arnold died after reaching the summit of 8,850-metre (29,035 feet) Everest.

Strydom, part of the same group as Arnold, developed altitude sickness while descending from Camp Four, located at about 8,000 metres (26,250 feet), the Kathmandu-based company that organised her expedition said.

"We are waiting for the expedition leader and other climbers of the group to come down to base camp," said Pasang Phurba of the Seven Summits Treks.

"We will then discuss (retrieving) her body. It cannot be left to lie as it is there," he told Reuters.

Dozens of climbers were rescued from the mountain with frost bite and injuries in the past two days, hiking officials said, without giving details.

Last year's earthquake forced hundreds of climbers to abandon their expeditions. The worst quake in Nepal's recorded history killed nearly 9,000 people across the Himalayan nation.

More than 350 climbers have reached the top of Everest this month from the Nepali side of the mountain while several people have climbed from Tibet.

Among them was 19-year-old Alyssa Azar, who on Saturday became the youngest Australian to summit Everest, and Lhakpa Sherpa, who notched a new record for woman climbers with her seventh ascent.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma in KATHMANDU and Jarni Blakkarly in MELBOURNE; Editing by Rupam Jain and Ros Russell)

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