Kathmandu: At least 12 people, all of them Nepalese, were killed in an avalanche on Mt. Everest Friday morning, an official said.
Condoling the deaths, the government announced NRs.40,000 ($400) each as immediate relief to the next of kin of the victims.
According to the tourism and civil aviation ministry, search and rescue operations at the avalanche site, which is at the elevation of nearly 5,900 metres, are still underway.
Though the Nepal government has not made any official statement regarding the accident that took place early Friday, a senior home ministry Official told IANS that the bodies of 12 people were recovered from the disaster site.
A spokesperson for Nepal’s Home Minister Shanker Prasad Koirala said 12 bodies have been recovered by a rescue team but several others were still missing.
Officials here said they are not in a position to reveal how many Sherpas were at the site of the disaster. They had gone for rope fixing ahead of this year’s climbing season.
According to Badri Bikram Thapa, district police chief of Solukhambu, four of the Sherpas belonged to Solukhambu district. Mt Everest lies in Solukhambu district and almost all Sherpas who fix ropes, and work as porters, sardars and guides, come from that district.
Those missing and killed were Sherpas and probably some foreign nationals.
More than three dozen Indian avid climbers are also vying to ascend the world’s highest mountain but it is not clear whether they have reached the base camp of the Mt Everest.
“We have rescued some three-four people from the accident site,” Mohan Krishna Sapkota, spokesperson of Nepal’s tourism ministry, said. “Altogether 15 Sherpas and climbers were missing in the deadly avalanche which is one of the biggest in recent history.”
Following the disaster, the Nepal government held an emergency meeting Friday afternoon to discuss the situation and officials were instructed to send a Nepal Army helicopter for the rescue bid.
Madhusudan Burlakoti, chief of Nepal’s mountaineering industry division that approves permissions for Everest climbers, confirmed to IANS that the bodies of nine Nepali nationals have been recovered from accident site. Six other people, who were found injured, were also Nepalis, he added.
Xinhua cited Burlakoti as saying that the avalanche hit the area just below the Base Camp 2 around 6.30 a.m.
The local Sherpas are renowned in the international climbing community for their experience at very high altitude, making them expert guides and porters for foreign mountaineers.
Hundreds of climbers and their guides have gathered at the base camp to get acclimatised before starting the climb at the world’s highest peak early next month.
According to a official report, at least 334 permits for Mount Everest have been issued this year, compared to 329 issued at the opening of the spring climbing season last year.