At least 100 gliders feared "lost" on Mount Kilimanjaro

2013-02-05 15:03:06 GMT2013-02-05 23:03:06(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

ARUSHA, Tanzania, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- At least 100 international gliders who are undertaking the first ever paragliding flights from Africa's highest peak of Mount Kilimanjaro have failed to make it on the grounds on Tuesday due to weather problems.

A helicopter which made trips around the mountain did not manage to spot the pilots on Tuesday, the day that they were supposed to be descending down, while the ground coordinators reported gushing winds as well as claustrophobic clouds surrounding the mountain.

Public Relations Manager of the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) , Paschal Shelutete, confirmed the incident, saying glides are usually affected by the wind and they could be swept off course by strong air current.

The pilots were expected to land at the Kibosho Vocational Technical Center in Mlama area of Umbwe on Tuesday at about 7 a.m., but till press time there was no news of the pilots who were also accompanied by nearly 800 supporting staff including porters, cooks, doctors and local guides.

Overall the team which comprises of the "Wings of Kilimanjaro" paragliding entourage may reach 1,000 people, including international journalists and film makers, Shelutete said, adding there are 30 women among the paragliding pilots.

The paragliding pilots climbed the mountain through the Machame route and once at the top, they were supposed to fly down the mountain and land at Kibosho.

According to the organizers, however, such stumbling block was expected because the weather on top of Africa's highest peak is always unpredictable and it was hoped that maybe the paragliding venture will have to be tried again on Thursday.

Local weather forecast apparently indicated that the situation could be worse on Wednesday when more cloud cover and stronger wind are predicted at the time when the Northern Zone regions will be experiencing rainfall.

"We never permitted paragliding on Mount Kilimanjaro before because it wasn't in the list of our tour package," explained Shelutete.

But should the "Wings of Kilimanjaro" event succeed, Tanapa was to consider allowing paragliding from the mountain to be among the list of activities offered to tourists scaling to the peak, he said.

The new development may attract more visitors to Kilimanjaro which has been getting just 52,000 tourists per year despite its worldwide fame, with most of them doing it for charity and even the ongoing event is also for humanitarian cause.

"We aim to raise 1 million U.S. dollars, which is to be invested in a number of humanitarian projects in Kilimanjaro, Arusha and Manyara regions," the Project Manager of the Australian- based Wings of Kilimanjaro, Paula McRae had previously stated.

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