China evacuates climbers stranded after earthquake

Updated: 2015-05-11 07:40


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China has evacuated 470 climbers stranded in the Tibet autonomous region by the magnitude-7.9 earthquake in Nepal, authorities said on Saturday.

All of the 470 climbers stranded on the north slope of the Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest in the West, were safely evacuated and 346 of them had already left the region by Saturday, they said.

When the quake hit Nepal on April 25, 470 climbers from 32 countries were scattered across the northern slope of Qomolangma, and on Mt. Cho Oyu and Mt. Shishapangma nearby. Of the total, 207 were Sherpa mountain guides from Nepal.

A quick response by the government of the Tibet autonomous region meant that calls reached all the climbers' camps and all climbing plans were canceled immediately.

"In the interests of safety and respect to those who have lost their lives in the earthquake, the spring climbing plans were canceled by the China Mountaineering Association and the Tibet Mountaineering Association," said Sun Yongping, Party secretary of the Tibet Sports Bureau.

"Even though it means big losses, the mountaineering associations have decided to suspend climbing permits for three years," Sun said.

The climbers on Qomolangma have been refunded $500 each, and the climbers of Mt. Cho Oyu and Mt. Shishapangma were given $300 refunds. The regional government is paying all the expenses of returning the 207 Nepalese mountain guides home.

This year China and Nepal will commemorate the 60th anniversary of China-Nepal diplomatic relations, and mark the 10th anniversary of China-Nepal friendship mountaineering.

Hari Prasad Bashyal, consul general of Nepal in Lhasa, said the rescue and relief operations conducted by Tibetan authorities at Qomolangma and in the surrounding areas of Nepal saved the lives of hundreds of Nepalese people.

Bashyal said tourism was a big industry in Tibet and Nepal, and the recent earthquake would have a huge impact on the entire economy of Nepal.

"On behalf of the government of Nepal, and myself, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the People's Republic of China, the government of the Tibet autonomous region, and to all the Chinese people for sharing the grief of the Nepalese people," said Bashyal.

Mingma Gelu Sherpa, a 26-year-old Sherpa and director of 7 Summits-Adventure who has conquered Qomolangma eight times, said: "We are very happy that the Chinese government has born all the travel expenses, including air tickets to Nepal.

"Thanks to the quick cancellation of the climbing plan and relocation by the Chinese government, nobody died or got hurt on the northern slope."

Dendi Sherpa of Kobler & Partner expeditions company, said he was in Camp 2 at an altitude of 6,500 meters when the quake hit. The guide, who has climbed Qomolangma five times, only heard the sound of avalanches, but did not see any rocks falling. The 32-year-old said he will return to the northern slope next year.

The Tibet Mountaineering Guide School said 124 Nepalese mountain guides were due to fly from Lhasa to Kathmandu on Sunday and Monday.