SEATTLE (Reuters) - Chances are slim of finding four people alive who have been missing since last week on Mount Rainier in Washington state as rescue efforts were suspended on Tuesday due to a snow storm that hit the region, a Park Service official said.
The suspension of the search came a day after officials, taking advantage of a break between winter storms, conducted a major operation to look for the missing people.
An Army Chinook helicopter, a private helicopter and a Washington State Patrol plane with infrared capabilities were used in the latest unsuccessful search, along with seven ground teams, the U.S. National Park Service said in a statement.
But on Tuesday, a winter storm brought more snowfall to Mount Rainier, 50 miles southeast of Seattle, hindering further rescue efforts. Heavy snow blanketed Mount Rainier last week during an unusually strong winter storm that virtually paralyzed nearby Seattle.
The four missing people were in two separate parties. Mark Vucich, 37, of San Diego and Michelle Trojanowski, 30, of Atlanta had been planning to camp at Muir Snowfield at the mountain, the Park Service said. They had said they would exit the park on Sunday, January 15.
The second party consisted of two 52-year-old climbers. Sork Yang of Springfield, Oregon, and Seol Hee Jin of South Korea, were trying to reach the mountain's summit and planned to return on Monday, January 16, the Park Service said.
Patti Wold, a spokeswoman for the Park Service, said on Tuesday that the chances of finding the four people alive were "very minimal, minimum to none."
"We're not searching today," Wold said. "We are scaling back the operation."
The families of the four missing people have been told that the chances of finding them alive were small, she added.
(Reporting by Laura L. Myers: Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)