A family member a sherpa is comforted by her relatives
during a funeral rally in Kathmandu for sherpa climbers
killed in the Mt Everest avalanche. REUTERS/Navesh
Nepali families cremated eight Mt Everest sherpas on
Monday as anger grew over how much compensation should be paid
to victims of the single deadliest avalanche on the world's
The eight bodies, out of a total of 13 recovered at the
weekend, were driven through Nepal's capital city in open
trucks, their coffins draped in yellow and cream cloth,
before being cremated separately.
At one ceremony below Nepal's famous Swayambhunath religious
complex, relatives weeped for their loved ones as four bodies
were set on fire while Buddhist monks beat drums, crashed
cymbals, blew pipes and chanted prayers.
Vern Tejas, a member of the Seattle-based Alpine Ascents
hiking group, turned out to pay his respects after five
sherpas working with his group died in the avalanche.
"We are here today to express condolences as well as my
mourning for their loss. They were not only employees. They
were dear friends," said Tejas, dressed in black glasses, hat
and shirt. "Without them we can't climb this mountain. Right
now we are stunned and in a state of deep grief."
At least 13 guides were killed, three are missing and at
least three others are under intensive care for broken limbs,
ribs, blood clots and other injuries in Kathmandu hospitals
after an avalanche swept the Khumbu Icefall, one of the most
dangerous parts of the climb to Everest.
The men were trying to fix ropes and crack snow and ice to
carve out a route for foreign climbers through the icefall,
located not far above Everest Base Camp, when they were
caught in the avalanche.
The accident has reignited debate on the risks sherpas take
and on overcrowding on Everest. The number of fatal accidents
has risen in the past decades as more and more commercial
expeditions - the government has issued 334 permits this
season, up from 328 last year - are launched.
After meeting at the base camp of the 8,850-metre summit on
Sunday, sherpas with 31 foreign expeditions demanded $10,000
in compensation for the families of victims, a doubling of
insurance cover for climbs, and agreed to launch protests if
their demands were not met.
Ed Marzec, a 67-year old climber who was at the base camp,
told Reuters that 350 of the sherpas had voted to suspend
their work helping climbers on Everest, although this could
not be independently verified.
The government has announced an immediate payment of $400 to
the victims' families to cover funeral costs.
But there is no provision for compensation for sherpas who
are hired by international expeditions to carry gear, and in
the past these groups have provided financial assistance on
their own in the case of accidents.
Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh, who placed marigold
garlands over the eight coffins driven through Kathmandu,
declined to say whether the government would meet the
sherpas' demands for greater compensation.
"The government is positive about their demands. But the
concerned (tourism minister) will come up with his
recommendations on the demands for the consideration of the
government," he told Reuters.
Besides the cash compensation, the mountain guides have
demanded that the government pay for the treatment of the
injured and raise the insurance cover to $20,000.
"If the demands are not met, we will be forced to launch
strong protests for the sake of daily bread of the entire
sherpa community," the sherpas said in a statement.
It was not clear what form the protests might take if the
demands were not met. Some guides had asked for the mountain
to be closed to expeditions during the popular climbing
season that runs through May this year as a mark of respect
for the dead.
Guiding foreign climbers is the main livelihood for sherpas,
helping them make up to $5,000 a year in a country with an
average annual income of just over $700.
Ang Tshering Sherpa of the Nepal Mountaineering Association
said the guides had given the government seven days to
fulfill their demands.
"There is a situation of conflict up in the mountain. It is
serious and could have far reaching consequences for climbing
in Nepal," he said. "So the government must act on their