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Five climbers die after getting caught in -20C snowstorm on Russia's Mount Elbrus

Five tourists died on Europe's highest mountain, some 'freezing to death', as the peak was swept by freak winter-like conditions.

Four women and one man were killed close to the summit of 18,510ft Mount Elbrus in Russia.

Another 18 tourists - amateur climbers - and guides were led off the snow-covered mountain in extreme blizzard conditions, some suffering frostbite and broken bones.

Eleven of the survivors were taken to hospital. 

Some 69 rescuers were involved in a major operation to save the mainly 'non-professional' climbers which finished at around 3am this morning on Russia's Mount Elbrus

Dramatic footage and pictures showed the overnight rescue which finished at 3am today.

Anna Makarova, 36, from Yakutsk, described as in 'perfect physical shape', died in the arms of mountain guide Igor Dankov after suddenly becoming unwell in the atrocious conditions some 300ft from the peak, said a tourism source.

'This was the moment when really strong wind rose, and the air pressure plummeted.

'Anna asked the guide to get her down, and Igor gave her tea and ammonia, but she died 40 to 60 minutes after first saying that she felt unwell.

Five tourists died on Europe's highest mountain, some 'freezing to death', as the peak was swept by freak winter-like conditions including Anna Makarova, 36, (left) and Yelena Nesterova, 32, (right)

The other Russian tourists who died were named as Vyacheslav Borisov, 39, Anastasia Zhigulina, 40, (right) and Irina Galchuk, 32, (left)

'She died in his arms.'

Two of the group 'froze to death' and others 'lost consciousness' in the sudden harsh conditions of -20C before being rescued.

The sudden bad weather had not been foreseen when the 23 climbers set out to conquer the peak in the Caucasus on a late summer ascent, said reports.

The group of Russian climbers sent out a mayday call just after 5 pm local time on Thursday, the regional ministry said. 

Pictured: Two of the amateur mountain climbers are seen with bad frostbite after being rescued from the mountain overnight

One member of the group broke his leg as he was being brought down, Denis Alimov, who organised guides for the climb, told TASS news agency.

'Probably because of this, the group lost time, the weather deteriorated catastrophically... They decided to split the group into three parts - those going faster and those going slower,' he told TASS.

'As they descended, two more people died in one of the groups. But the decision to split up was the right one, otherwise there might have been more casualties.'

The Russian tourists who died were named as Vyacheslav Borisov, 39, Yelena Nesterova, 32, Anastasia Zhigulina, 40, and Irina Galchuk, 32.

Pictured: One of the amateur climbers is seen covered in snow and frostbite after having been saved from the mountain

Some 69 rescuers were involved in a major operation to save the mainly 'non-professional' climbers.

The company which organised the climb said there were four professional guides with the group.

A criminal case has been opened into the deaths of the climbers and how the ascent was allowed to go-ahead. 

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