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TIME Nepal

Nepal Vows New Rules After Worst Trekking Disaster

(KATMANDU, Nepal) — Nepal on Tuesday said it will introduce new rules, improve weather forecasts and better monitor the movement of trekkers after the Himalayan country’s worst hiking disaster left dozens dead last week.

Tourism Department official Tulasi Gautam said trekkers venturing to mountain trails will be required to take trained local guides, and will have to rent a GPS tracking unit to help authorities trace them in case of an emergency.

Gautam said the government plans to announce the new rules nationwide before the next trekking season in the spring.

“The main reason for the high number of casualties is that those trekkers without proper guides were prompted to continue with their trek in attempts to beat the storm. So we plan to strictly enforce new rules of no trekking without porters or proper guides,” Gautam said.

At least 41 people were killed last week when a blizzard and avalanches swept the mountains of the Annapurna region in northern Nepal. Of those, 21 were foreign trekkers and mountaineers from countries including India, Israel, Canada, Poland, Japan, China and Slovakia. Twenty were Nepalese guides, porters and villagers.

Many of the trekkers around the Annapurna Circuit trekking route are independent hikers generally called backpackers who do not hire guides. The route is also dotted with lodges and tea stalls that sell food, snacks and lodging.

Authorities also plan to improve the weather forecasting system and make it easier to deliver information to remote trekking routes.

The government also said all trekkers must now register at check posts while entering and exiting the trekking areas. Previously, foreign trekkers were required to buy permits or at least register before entering trekking areas, but Nepalese nationals were not. And no one was required to check out when they left.

Home Ministry Secretary Surya Prasad Silwal said rescuers were able to fly 518 stranded trekkers, including 310 foreigners, to safety before the search operation ended Monday.

“It was the biggest rescue operation in Nepal that included hundreds of soldiers, policemen and local officials. Swift response saved many lives,” Silwal said. He added that every available helicopter was used in the effort.

TIME Nepal

Death Toll in Nepal Blizzards Rises to 40 as Authorities Wind Down Search

The body of a victim is moved from an ambulance to the morgue after it was brought back from Annapurna Region in Kathmandu
The body of a victim is moved from an ambulance to the morgue after it was brought back from Annapurna Region in Kathmandu October 17, 2014. Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters

More than 600 people have been rescued, but a few locals are still reportedly missing

Nepalese authorities are being thwarted in their hunt for more survivors of the Himalayan snowstorms that have killed at least 40 people over the past week.

After minor avalanches hampered the search for stranded climbers Monday, Keshav Pandey, of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal, admitted, “After this we can only hope that those who are missing will establish contact with us or their families,” Reuters reports.

Some 600 people have been rescued so far by the Nepalese army and other groups. Pandey believes it unlikely any more tourists are missing but said that some local porters and guides had not yet been traced.

Casualties from the blizzards, which took place unexpectedly during peak trekking season and are said to have been triggered by a cyclone that hit eastern India the previous week, included trekkers from Israel, Japan, Canada, Poland and Slovakia along with several locals.

Baburam Bhandari, chief of Nepal’s Mustang district on the Annapurna mountain circuit where the blizzards hit, told Reuters that army rescuers dug out the body of another Israeli tourist on Monday.

This is the second major disaster this year in Nepal, which is home to eight of the world’s 10 highest mountains. (Annapurna ranks in 10th place.) Sixteen local guides lost their lives this April in an avalanche on the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest.

Nepalese Tourism Minister Dipak Amatya said he would do everything possible to ensure that the country never again encountered a tragedy of this nature. “There is no point blaming the hostile weather for the disaster,” Amatya said.

[Reuters]

TIME Nepal

More Than 20 Dead, Dozens Remain Missing as Blizzards Batter Himalayas

Nepal Avalanche
In this photo provided by the Nepalese army, soldiers carry an avalanche victim before he is airlifted in Thorong La pass area, in Nepal, on Oct. 15, 2014 AP

Four Canadians, three Israelis reportedly among the deceased, authorities still searching for some 85 missing persons

The effects of Cyclone Hudhud, which battered India’s east coast over the weekend, are being felt further north, as resultant blizzards in neighboring Nepal’s Annapurna region killed at least 20 people on Wednesday.

Officials said that nine locals, three Polish nationals, three Israelis and one Vietnamese were killed in the region’s Mustang district, according to the Indian Express. Four Canadians and an Indian also lost their lives in the neighboring district of Manang, and the search for nearly 85 others reported missing is being focused on the Thorang pass that connects the two areas.

Reuters reported that the Nepalis killed were a group of yak herders and that the search for hikers, which was called off Wednesday night local time owing to bad light and weather, resumed on Thursday morning. “One army helicopter has already left for the site and more helicopters will be pressed into service later,” said Mustang district Governor Baburam Bhandari.

This week’s disaster, which took place during Nepal’s peak trekking season, marks a bad year for the country’s tourism industry. Several Sherpa guides lost their lives in an avalanche at the base of Mount Everest in April, the worst accident in the history of the world’s tallest mountain. CNN reports that many Sherpas refused to go back up Everest after the incident, and as many as six trekking companies canceled their 2014 expeditions.

Kathmandu-based Adventure Mountain Explore Treks and Expedition are still heading out while exercising a great deal of caution and restraint in all situations.

Tika Regmi, who heads the company’s trekking and mountaineering department, says all his guides are advised to stay put during a natural disaster, or immediately descent if safe. “But some guides and Sherpas feel they need to listen to the customers’ wishes,” he tells TIME. According to Regmi, there are foreign trekkers who feel getting their money’s worth is most important and will press on despite adverse conditions. “But no amount of money is more valuable than their lives,” he says.

Three Adventure Mountain guides are currently at a guesthouse with their clients, and Regmi says it was their reading of the situation that saved their lives. Another company, whom he did not wish to name, pressed on and now has several groups missing. “It’s a natural disaster so no one can control,” he says. “We can only control our people and our guides.”

Regmi has already started receiving emails with requests for cancellations. He says the danger should pass within a week as the weather improves, but does worry about the long-term impact of these incidents.

“I’m sure it’s not a good message for people who are coming from all over the world,” he says.

TIME Nepal

Nepal Blizzard, Avalanche Death Toll Rises to 25

(KATMANDU, Nepal) — Search and rescue teams flying on army helicopters spotted the bodies of eight more trekkers killed in a series of blizzards and avalanches that have hit central Nepal in recent days, raising the death toll in the region to 25, officials said Thursday.

About 70 people were still missing along or near the popular Annapurna trail, said Ganga Sagar Pant of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, and the death toll there was expected to rise.

The route, 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of the capital, Katmandu, was filled with international hikers because October is peak trekking season, when the air is clear and the weather is cool. There were also many Nepalese on the trails because of local festivals.

At least 12 people died when they were caught in a sudden blizzard Tuesday in the Thorong La pass area.

As the weather improved, rescue workers recovered the bodies of four hikers — two Poles, an Israeli and a Nepali — from around Thorong La. Two trekkers from Hong Kong and 12 Israelis were airlifted Wednesday to Katmandu, where they were being treated at Shree Birendra Hospital.

The blizzard, the tail end of a cyclone that hit the Indian coast a few days ago, appeared to contribute to an avalanche Wednesday that killed at least eight people in Phu village in the neighboring Manang district. The dead included one Indian and four Canadian trekkers as well as three villagers, said government official Devendra Lamichane. The villagers’ bodies were recovered Wednesday, he said.

But digging out the foreigners’ bodies, which are buried in up to two meters (6 ½ feet) of snow, will take days, he said. Three Canadian trekkers who survived the avalanche were taken by helicopter to a shelter in a nearby village. No update was immediately available on their condition.

Meanwhile, authorities said five climbers were killed in a separate avalanche some 75 kilometers (46 miles) to the west, at the base camp for Mount Dhaulagiri. The climbers, two Slovaks and three Nepali guides, were preparing to scale the 8,167-meter (26,800-foot) -high peak, the world’s seventh tallest, said Gyanedra Shrestha of Nepal’s mountaineering department. Their bodies were recovered Thursday.

An avalanche in April just above the base camp on Mount Everest killed 16 Nepalese guides, the deadliest single disaster on the mountain. Climate experts say rising global temperatures have contributed to avalanches in the Himalayas.

TIME Photos

The 22 Most Surprising Photos of the Month

From dogs suckling tiger cubs to earthquake skaters, each photograph will surprise you as TIME shares the most outrageous images from August 2014

TIME Nepal

Nepal’s Impoverished Kidney Village, Where Organs Come Cheap

Man Bahadur Tamang, 51, who sold his kidney for 64,000 Nepalese rupees ($727) due to poverty, shows the incision scar from the operation, at his home in Kavre
Man Bahadur Tamang, 51, who sold his kidney for 64,000 Nepalese rupees ($727) due to poverty, shows the incision scar from the operation at his home in Kavre on Sept. 4, 2012. © Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters—REUTERS

In the mud-brick village of Hokshe, desperate Nepalese have been persuaded, or tricked, into selling a precious kidney for a pittance

In 2002, Kenam Tamang was duped into parting with a kidney by his own son-in-law. The ruse was a simple one, sweetened by the lure of work and a steady income – something he had been bereft of for too long. The two would leave their village of Hokshe in the Himalayan foothills east of Kathmandu, cut a line south and cross the border into India. Several days later, they would arrive in the southern coastal city of Chennai, ending a migratory passage that hundreds of thousands of Nepalese laborers had plied before them.

He hung around in Chennai for a month before being introduced to a group of Indian men — friends of his son-in-law who would arrange the work, he was told. “But one night, I heard them talking about kidney, but could not understand the whole conversation properly, which was in Hindi. And the next day, I was escorted to the hospital, where I was told that they are taking out my kidney.” Kenam, 48 at the time, turned to his son-in-law. “He said I will get a good amount for the kidney and there will not be any health complications. He even said that it would grow back.”

Hokshe is a cluster of mud-brick homes, flanked by fields of corn, sitting high up in the hills that circle Kathmandu. The arterial roads heading west from the village serve as tributaries that feed the capital with an ever fluid labor force made up of young and old, men and women, who see little point in staying at home to farm small patches of land for less than $2 a day. But the village carries a dark secret: of the 75 households in one ward alone, almost all have at least one member who has sold a kidney. Some, like Kenam, are duped into doing so; others are only too willing. From the days of the early ’90s, when the first villager was approached by brokers with the attractive offer of more than a year’s wages in return for an organ, the trade has taken on almost fad-like proportions.

Kumari Sapkota, 42, stands outside her home in Ward 3 of Hokshe. Her hands and clothes are caked in a chalky mud from working the field of corn below the house. If the money was right, she would willingly sell her kidney. Her only hesitancy is that all too often, the fee offered by brokers rarely gets delivered; either that, or sellers find that by the time they resume their lives in Hokshe, much of it has been spent on travel and medicine. That was the fate of Kenam. After being reassured by his son-in-law, he agreed to undergo the operation for $700. The cash was handed over in full, but three months later, as the bus wound its way back up the hill to Hokshe, only $100 was left. The two of them had spent the intervening time in Kathmandu, where the fee was whittled away. “Some money was used for dieting and medicine to be used soon after the operation, while my son-in-law spent money on alcohol,” he laments.

The story of Ganesh Bahadur Damai, 40, from nearby Jyamdi village, echoes Kenam’s search for better-paid work in India — that is, until he found himself drunk in a room in Bangalore with a group of strangers. “I was given an injection which made me unconscious for 24 hours. When I awoke, I was in a hospital bed. They had taken my kidney.” Three months later he arrived back in Kathmandu, where he was handed a mere $150, with which he bought a small plot of land. People living with one kidney should have its function assessed annually. But, he says, “I have no money to go for a health checkup.”

Stories like this don’t deter Kumari, nor the seemingly dozens of other villagers here who see opportunities in the organ trade. Her husband is a kidney down, as is the friend who works the field of corn with her. One man, Krishna, says his brother-in-law and two other relatives have sold theirs. He tried four times, but all were unsuccessful — on one occasion, the recipient of his kidney died just before he arrived for a pre-op checkup in Kathmandu. Frustrated, he won’t try again. But others are only too keen.

One 19-year-old mother is actively looking for a buyer, but recent crackdowns by Nepalese police have taken out many of the middlemen. “If you know someone [a broker], tell him to come here!” she says, laughing. Her reason is blunt, and a sharp reminder that the money they’ll receive isn’t for indulgence, but for far more pressing concerns. “I can get one lakh [$1,000] for a kidney. My son’s future will be secure.” As the conversation winds on, and more women come up from the field, it becomes clear that the international kidney trade that feeds clinics across the subcontinent and beyond has a bountiful source in Hokshe.

“Hokshe is an example of how people can [be exploited],” says Dr. Rishi Raj Kafle, executive director of the National Kidney Center in Kathmandu. “These villagers see people who haven’t died and think, Why not?”

Back in the village, the sharp whiff of locally brewed moonshine that comes off the breath of many locals — even those who, with one kidney, really shouldn’t be drinking very much at all — points also to a lack of understanding about the health implications. That isn’t surprising. Every villager TIME spoke to was illiterate and would struggle to learn about or comprehend the side effects of a nephrectomy, which can include high blood pressure and reduced function in, or even failure of, the remaining kidney.

The emergence of a legal donor system, in which relatives of patients who require a new kidney can trade theirs for $2,000 of government money, has reduced the numbers of Nepalese traveling to India for operations. Police have also clamped down on the rackets that prey on villages like Hokshe, and in May they arrested 15 traders in a sting operation. But Dr. Kafle fears there could be many more Hokshes across Nepal, even though the only people who seem to be making money are the traders. “I’ve not found a single person who sold their kidney who is rich,” he says.

TIME Nepal

Climbers Start Leaving Everest As Sherpas Threaten to Strike

Mount Everest on Oct. 27, 2011.
Mount Everest seen in 2011. Kevin Frayer—AP

Some foreign mountaineers looking to ascend the world's highest peak in Nepal are divided between staying and going as Sherpas demand better compensation and improved safety conditions following a recent avalanche that killed 16 local guides

Some would-be Mount Everest climbers are packing up and heading home as some Sherpas threaten to strike after a deadly avalanche, the BBC reports.

The Sherpas, locals who do the heavy-lifting for foreign climbers seeking to make the treacherous ascent, are demanding better financial treatment and improved safety conditions in the wake of a disaster that killed 16 of their colleagues.

Top Nepalese tourism officials are attempting to negotiate with the Sherpas in an effort to save this year’s climbing season. The Everest climb is all but impossible for foreign visitors without the help, knowledge and labor of the experienced Sherpas, who currently make from $3,000 to $6,000 each season. The country’s tourism ministry expressed hope that the talks between the Sherpas and the Nepalese government might salvage at least some of the season, which generates about $3.3 million annually for Nepal in climbing fees alone.

More than 300 foreign climbers were set to scale Everest’s peak this year. However, last week’s fatal accident caused many to head home over concerns for their own safety regardless of the Sherpas’ threats to strike.

[BBC and Independent]

TIME Nepal

Mount Everest Avalanche Witness: ‘It Looked Like a Big Snake Coming Down The Mountain’

Mount Everest on Oct. 27, 2011.
Mount Everest seen in 2011. Kevin Frayer—AP

American climber Joby Ogwyn was at base camp on Mount Everest when the deadliest avalanche in the mountain's recorded history rolled down the side, killing at least 13 Nepalese Sherpas and sparking resentment over working conditions on expeditions

Joby Ogwyn was planning to jump off the summit of Mount Everest. Instead he went to funerals for his Sherpas.

There are some 50,000 Sherpas in the world, according to some estimates, mountain-dwelling people best known for the livelihood the Nepalese Sherpas have made helping tourists scale Mount Everest. At at least 13 of them were killed this month in the deadliest avalanche in the mountain’s recorded history—proportionally, that would be like a loss of about 100,000 Americans in a single day. Dozens of Nepalese Sherpas staged a walkout at the Mount Everest base camp on Wednesday, in honor of the fallen and in reaction to a tragedy that has sparked resentment over their working conditions. The mountain is closed, and long-planned expeditions are being canceled, some by teams who lost their guides in the avalanche and want to respect their memories by standing down this season, even if the mountain reopens.

One of those teams is Ogwyn’s. The American climber was set to do the first wing-suit jump off the summit of Everest, to be broadcast live by the Discovery Channel later this month. In the wake of the avalanche, the grand adventure that was hatched two years ago has been scrapped. Discovery is eating many of those costs and will instead be airing a special documentary on May 4 about the aftermath of the avalanche, which it inadvertently had camera teams in place to capture.

TIME spoke to Ogwyn from his hotel in Kathmandu about what it was like to be on the ground when the mountain came tumbling down, what he remembers of the guides that their team lost, and why he has no regrets.

“It looked like a big snake coming down the mountain through the ice fall,” Ogwyn recalls of when he first saw the avalanche. “And I saw all my guides with the other Sherpa on ladders, going up a big vertical section of ice. And the avalanche just came down right on top of them. I knew it was bad, but obviously I didn’t realize how bad it would be.”

Here’s his interview with TIME, lightly edited and condensed.

When did you arrive in Nepal and what was the trip to base camp like?

I arrived on April 4, and I was here for a couple days. Then my team took a small airplane ride to the city of Luqa and 9,000 feet. We proceeded to trek in, and it took about seven days to arrive at base camp. On the third day we were there, we had our puja ceremony, which is the blessing of all the members of the team. And it was really the most beautiful puja ceremony I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot. Each expedition has their own. They have a lama that comes. It’s a celebration, but it’s really a prayer for safe passage up the mountain. We had a really great day there and bonded with all our friends, our Sherpa, our staff from base camp.

And then what happened?

The very next day, our guides were going to take some equipment to the first camp. We had planned on going the following day. That morning that they went up, I was awake very early in my tent. It was about 6:45 a.m. if I remember right, and I heard the avalanche.

There’s a lot of little avalanches that happen when you’re at base camp. You’re on a glacier and everything is creaking and cracking, so you get used to hearing those types of things. And usually you don’t look outside your tent unless you really hear that it’s a big avalanche. Because they’re quite powerful and, in some ways, quite beautiful. But the one that I heard [even though it didn't sound big], I could hear that it was coming from the ice fall. And I knew my guides and a lot of other guides were up there. I zipped the tent fly back and looked out.

I couldn’t see it at first. It had happened a little further back on the mountain, where the piece had broken off. And then I saw it. It looked like a big snake coming down the mountain through the ice fall. And I saw all my guides with the other Sherpa on ladders, going up a big vertical section of ice. And the avalanche just came down right on top of them. I knew it was bad, but obviously I didn’t realize how bad it would be.

How could you tell, when you heard the avalanche, how big it was?

The way that it works on the really big mountains in the Himalayas, it’s not like an avalanche you would have in Colorado, where it looks like a little slab that breaks off and it’s soft snow. This is all ice. The mountains are so big and so high, they’re on these glaciers. And at some moment, a piece of it breaks off. When it hits, it falls for so long, tumbling down the mountain, it brings so much energy and speed and power, that when that piece breaks, it just turns it into pieces of shrapnel that are made out of ice. And whatever it hits, it destroys.

This one, it seemed to me, came from a piece of ice that was not hanging quite as high. It wasn’t as loud or as fast-moving as I had seen many others. There were people that had gotten away from it, people who saw it and outran it. And the people behind them, once it got to them, it had more speed and pushed them back into the ice fall. … I knew that some people had probably died, been killed by the upper, bigger part of it. But I was hoping that the guides that I saw get covered up just got a dusting. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

So what did you do in those moments after you looked out of your tent and saw the avalanche covering your guides?

I put my clothes on very quickly, got out of my tent. In other camps I started to hear people talking and yelling at each other. Our radios lit up. I walked into the our communications tent where our camp manager was and we just started to try to make contact on the radio with our guides. We made contact with some guides up there who weren’t on our team and were asking about our team members. You could hear in the background on the radio, guys were scrambling around, yelling back and forth. The Sherpa who had survived were working very hard to find the Sherpa that were covered up and were trying to dig them out, digging them out as fast as they could. Some they were finding very quickly were dead. Some they found still alive, or just covered up, and they managed to pull them out. But from what they were telling us, it was a brutal scene.

So very quickly, I would say within 12 minutes, all the Western teams had come together with their lead guides and were preparing for going up and assisting. We were getting helicopters mobilized, which was the part of the process that took the longest. It probably took an hour or two hours, which is still incredibly fast in this area because it’s just very remote. I was impressed with how fast people came together.

And what did you personally do in terms of recovery efforts? Was there much you could do at that point?

We knew that of our guides who were up there, three of them were missing and three were alive. And we also knew a lot of other people up there. So my climbing partner Garrett Madison and I, we geared up and we started walking into the ice fall. We walked up not quite halfway and our goal was to make sure that we tried to find our three guides and that we received our other three guides coming down. And every other Sherpa, we wanted to bring them food and water and medical equipment. One cameraman came up there and the two of us stayed in position there. It took us all day, until every single Sherpa was off the mountain.

My climbing partner went up the ice fall. He climbed all the way up to the actual avalanche zone, found our guides and unfortunately the three of them that we were working with, that we were going to go to the summit with, were all dead. He spent hours in this hot zone with several other guides basically chipping our guides out of the ice so we could do the body recovery for their families, which is very important in this part of the world, to retrieve the bodies of these guides. They were our guides, our Sherpa, our lead Sherpa. And this ice is really like concrete. It took a long time to get them out. And it just, really, was one of the more heroic things I’ve ever seen. What I did was trying to spot for those guys in case anything was coming down.

Eventually we got everybody off the mountain that we could. There were three guides who were missing who would be very difficult or impossible to find. But we did manage to get our three guides out and get their bodies in the helicopter back to Kathmandu so they could be cremated. We just had the funerals for them yesterday. It was a pretty massive crowd of people and it was just a very, very sad day. We definitely did everything we could to help our friends. I just wish that we could have done more.

When you think about it now, do you have any regrets about trying to have this adventure?

No, I don’t have any regerets at all. What happened was just an unfortunate one-in-a-billion accident, truly an act of God. It just was so random, out of nowhere. You have to remember that people have been climbing on Everest for over 50 years, and nothing like this has ever happened, especially in the last decades. The safety precautions and the way trips are organized has gotten really good. But unfortunately the mountain is what it is. It’s just a massive piece of nature. People do die on it every year. What’s really shocking about this particular instance is that it happened on the first day of climbing, essentially, right at the very beginning, and that is why it was all Sherpa.

My intention was to climb up the very first day, taking all the equipment we could carry and establishing that first camp. The only thing that kept me from being with these guides and being killed ourselves is that one of the producers wanted to do some shots with our equipment and from a scheduling point of view, we thought, we’ll get this out of the way and come up the next day. Literally, when they asked me, and I thought about it for an hour before saying, okay, let’s do it. The fact that I had to think about it for an hour really is scary to me now, because I almost said, Nah, I’m going to go up with my guides the first time. That one little choice saved my life.

Obviously you’re feeling some grief, but do you also feel very lucky?

Absolutely. I am destroyed for my guides, there’s no doubt about that. And I might have lost my team, but other Sherpa lost brothers and friends and cousins. It was just a catastrophe. Am I sad about my project? Of course. You know, I’m not the only person who put a massive amount of time and resources into it, and we had great weather and good conditions for the most part on the mountain. I’m quite convinced that if this hadn’t happened, we could have made everything work. But that’s really the least of my concerns right now. … Nobody is feeling sorry for themselves here.

Discovery will be running the documentary Everest Avalanche Tragedy on May 4 at 9 p.m. and contributing to the American Himalayan Foundation Sherpa Family Fund, which gives 100% of all donations to help families of the deceased. To make a donation, click here.

TIME Nepal

Nepal Agrees to Relief Fund for Sherpas to Keep Climbing Season Open

A Nepalese porter walks with his load from Everest base camp in Nepal
A Nepalese porter walks with his load from Everest base camp in Nepal on May 3, 2011 Laurence Tan—Reuters

Authorities in Nepal have offered to meet with Sherpas working in the Himalayas to negotiate better compensation for those killed or injured while helping mainly foreign climbers conquer the world's highest peaks

The Nepalese government has agreed in principle to meet the demands of the Sherpas set forth Monday, including setting up a relief fund for those injured or killed climbing in the Himalayas.

A government official told the New York Times that a relief fund would be financed by profits the Nepalese government makes from expeditions to Mount Everest. However, he did not specify the precise amount or functioning of the fund.

On Monday, hundreds of Sherpas threatened to cancel the spring climbing season if a list of 12 demands weren’t met by the government within one week.

They are demanding better compensation for the families of the 13 people confirmed killed in an avalanche on the world’s highest mountain last week. Three others are still missing and are unlikely to have survived.

The standard payment by the government is 40,000 rupees, or about $413, to each family, although they also receive around $10,000 from mandatory life-insurance policies. Sherpas also want improved working conditions, such as better pensions and educational assistance.

Tensions are also heating up on Mount Everest, where about 400 foreign climbers and an equal number of guides, as well as many more support staff, have been left in limbo pending the outcome of negotiations.

According to Tim Rippel, one of the expedition leaders currently on the mountain, “things are getting very complicated and there is a lot of tension here and it’s growing.”

“The Sherpa guides are heating up, emotions are running wild and demands are being made to the government to share the wealth with the Sherpa people,” he wrote in a blog post from base camp.

The Nepalese government has said it will negotiate the demands with Sherpa representatives in meetings Tuesday. However, it remains unclear if original demands for around $100,000 per individual killed or disabled could be met by the impoverished nation’s government.

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