SAWDIS Share Buttons

SAWDIS Share Buttons:

07 November 2011

Thousands stranded in the Mount Everest region of Nepal


Image: Mount Everest is the highest peak in the world standing at 8,848 metres (29,029 feet) Photo: REUTERS

Hundreds of British trekkers are among around 2,500 tourists, guides and porters stranded in the small Himalayan village of Lukla - the gateway to the Mount Everst trail - due to dense fog which has grounded flights to and from the local airport.

Last night, 400 stranded tourists were airlifted from the mountain. But it was estimated that there were still around 3,500 people at the Lukla airport who are waiting to be taken to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

Mahendra Singh Thapa, president of Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN), said, "Although we don´t have actual figure, there are still 3,500 people stranded at Lukla including more than 2,000 tourists."

Tenzing-Hillary Airport airport, located 9,000ft above sea level, usually transports around 500 people per day to and from the capital, mostly trekkers heading for Everest Base Camp.

It was built in the 1950s by the late Sir Edmund Hillary, who with the sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first mountaineer to reach the summit of Everest in a British expedition in 1953. Delays due to bad weather are frequent in the small Sherpa village, dotted with trekking lodges, in the high trekking seasons in the spring and autumn.

However, the delays usually only inconvenience a handful of trekkers for a day or two in both Lukla and Kathmandu. The current numbers are unprecedented and have been caused by a spell of thick fog, leading to poor visibility, that has lingered in the region since Oct 31.

While around 500 people have managed to charter helicopters from nearby villages and some have opted for the five-day trek to Jiri - the nearest roadhead - more two thousand remain stuck in the small Himalayan hamlet.

Conditions in the village are said to be overcrowded and expensive, with trekkers having to shelter in tents on the airstrip and sleep in the dining rooms of lodges. There were also concerns that food supplies could run low if, as expected, it takes several days to get the trekkers back to Kathmandu.

The Nepalese Army has been deployed to try to help with it's limited fleet of MI-16 helicopters - one is thought to be operational and can only carry 16 passengers - though poor visibility has also hampered these efforts.

The airport and the perilous route over the Himalayas to Kathmandu has been the scene of several fatal accidents involving small two-engined aircraft, which have often crashed in poor visibility with the loss of over 50 lives since 2008.

- The Telegraph