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SOUTH AFRICAN IS FEARED DEAD ON EVEREST

Two South African climbers who conquered Mount Everest returned to their base camp safely but mourning their third teammate, missing on the world's highest peak and presumed dead.

Bruce Herrod's death would bring to nine the number of climbers who have died in the past month tackling the world's highest mountain. The eight others died in a surprise blizzard that struck the mountain 21/2 weeks ago; 75 climbers have returned safely this month.South African media reported Tuesday that the surviving South African climbers reached the camp Monday after crossing a rapidly melting glacier.

Herrod had lagged at least seven hours behind his teammates during the Everest ascent, Radio 702 reported Tuesday.

The British-born professional photographer reached the summit Saturday and began his descent alone in temperatures of 31 degrees below zero. He was listed officially as missing late Sunday, a day after his last radio message from the Everest summit.

A search party for Herrod would not be sent out in the worsening conditions, the Johannesburg Star newspaper said.

Nepalese authorities have ordered all foreign climbers off the mountain by June 11, as the warmer monsoon season approaches, the paper said.

Climber Cathy O'Dowd, speaking from the South African base camp, told the radio Tuesday that the team split up because it was "normal procedure" during the final ascent for team members to fend for themselves.

South African team leader Ian Woodall, who planted South Africa's post-apartheid flag for the first time on peak Saturday, said the flag at the base camp was lowered to half staff to honor Herrod, the radio reported.