Nepal: Stranded Everest trekkers walk to safety

Hundreds of foreign tourists stranded by heavy fog in the Everest region are hiking their way to safety across the Himalayas.

Last Updated: Nov 06, 2011, 18:54 PM IST

Kathmandu: Hundreds of foreign tourists
stranded by heavy fog in the Everest region are hiking their
way to safety across the Himalayas, an official said on Sunday.

With continuing bad weather hampering their rescue, up
to 400 of the thousands of stranded trekkers have given up
waiting for the fog to lift and are heading to Jiri, a
four-day walk away, to pick up buses back to Kathmandu.

Managers on Wednesday were forced to close the only
airstrip in Lukla, the gateway for climbers heading to Everest
and surrounding mountains, grounding all flights in and out of
the region.

"There is a very low visibility so we are not
expecting the resumption of regular flights today," said Utsab
Kharel, the manager of Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla.

"Around 300 to 400 tourists have walked from Lukla to
Jiri after losing hope of an improvement in the weather."

The army had hoped to deploy its rescue helicopter,
which carries up to 40 people, but bad weather has prevented
it from accessing Lukla, 135 kilometres (84 miles) from
Kathmandu.

"Small helicopters have continued rescuing tourists
from Surke, a village a one-and-half hour walk from Lukla,"
said Kharel. "They have carried around 400 foreigners to
Kathmandu."

The stranded trekkers, including Americans, Britons
and Germans, have been sleeping at the airport and in tents
and dining halls at Lukla hotels, officials say, with the fog
not expected to lift until at least Monday.

"Still 300 tourists are in Surke waiting their turn.
Around 2,200 to 2,500 are languishing in Lukla," Kharel said.
"The prices of daily commodities have soared up and the stock
of meat and vegetables is running empty."

PTI