An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mt Everest early today morning killing at least 12 sherpa guides and leaving four missing.
The deadliest single mountaineering disaster – just below Camp 2 – on the world’s highest peak has also left several more injured, according to Tourism Ministry.
The Sherpa guides – known as ice-fall doctors – had gone to fix ropes for other climbers, when the avalanche struck an area known as ‘popcorn field’ – just below 21,000 ft (6,400 metres) – for its bulging chunks of ice at about 6:30 am local time from the base camp, the ministry added.
The rescuers, guides and climbers rushed to help as soon as the avalanche hit The Rescue workers pulled out 12 bodies from under mounds of snow and are still searching for the four missing guides, the ministry said, adding that the four survivors were badly injured and were airlifted to Kathmandu hospital. But some guides, who are less seriously injured – with serious frost-bite injuries – were being treated at base camp.
According to injured Sherpas, they woke up early in the morning and were on their way to fix ropes to the higher camps but were delayed because of the unsteady path. “Suddenly the avalanche fell on the group and buried many of them,” they added.
Dipendra Poudel of Trekking and Mountaineering Section under Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation confirmed the death.
“Liaisons officers, personnel of Nepal Army and Armed Police Force as well as guides from Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) and ice fall doctors are involved in rescue operations,” he said, adding that climbers of as many as six expeditions including Alpine Ascent, Summit Nepal, Himalayan Guides and Beuyl were swept away by the avalanche.
Earlier, the Tourism Ministry had announced various steps to better manage the flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations – including dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 17,380 ft (5,300 meters).
Likewise, the government had last year revised the insurance policy for high-altitude climbers under which a Sardar (chief) mountain guide, gets a minimum of Rs 1 million. For high-altitude workers, the insurance coverage has been raised to Rs 1 million from Rs 400,000. The government has increased personal accident insurance and compensation insurance for rescue officials by 150 percent to $10,000.
However, more than 4,000 climbers have summited Mt Everest since 1953, when it was first assaulted by and a Nepali Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and a New Zealander Edmund Hillary.
Earlier on May 11, 1996 also the highest peak of the world had witnessed the worst disaster that killed eight climbers
Likewise, six Nepali guides were also killed in an avalanche in 1970. In 2012 too, there was one death and two injuries, while two Sherpas were critically hurt last year.
A meeting of the Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee – chaired by deputy prime minister and home minister Bam Dev Gautam – has announced Rs 40,000 as a relief for each victim’s family. Shikhar Insurance has offered Rs 50,000 to each victim, in addition to the insured’s eligible claim.
Mingma Nuru Sherpa (Namche-4)
Dorji Sherpa (Namche-9)
Ang Tshiri Sherpa (Namche-7)
Nima Sherpa (Namche-9)
Phurba Ongyal Sherpa (Khumjung-7)
Lhakpa Tenjing Sherpa (Khumjung-2)
Chhring Ongchu Sherpa (Khumjung-2
Dorjee Khatri (Taplejung)
Dorjee Sherpa (Khumjung-7)
Phur Temba Sherpa (Sankhasabha)
Pasang Karma Sherpa (Juving-5)
Asman Tamang (Sotang-9)
(Source: Tourism Ministry)