Nepal’s mountaineers have threatened to stop work in seven days unless compensation of $10,000 is paid to the families of colleagues killed, injured or missing after last week’s Everest avalanche.
The ultimatum was among a series of demands issued by the Nepal Mountaineers’ Association in a statement on Monday. Others include a memorial to the dead, the doubling of insurance cover to $20,000 and medical bills paid for by the government.
The government had earlier announced a payment of $400 to the victims’ families to cover funeral costs, a payment dismissed as insufficient by the association.
“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,” said a statement given to the Reuters news agency by the community.
At least 13 guides were killed and three others seriously injured in the avalanche on Khumbu Icefall, one of the most dangerous parts of Everest, last Friday. Three others are still missing.
The men were trying to fix ropes and crack snow and ice to carve out a route for foreign climbers.
Several Sherpas have already stopped work while others are still deciding on their response, the association’s Ang Tshering told the Associated Press news agency.
Some guides had asked for the mountain to be closed during the popular climbing season that runs through May as a mark of respect for the dead.
Guiding foreign climbers is the main livelihood for the Sherpa community. A guide can make up to $5,000 a year in a country with an average annual income of about $700. It is also a profitable industry for the country.
“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 demands immediately.”
The deputy prime minister, Prakash Man Singh, on Monday said the government was working to help the Sherpas.
“It is not true the government does not care,” he said. “We have been working with rescue from the very beginning. We will do what we can, keeping with the standard practice to provide compensation”.
* An earlier version of this story reported that the mountaineers’ association had demanded 10m rupees ($100,000) for every affected family. The association later corrected that amount to 1m rupees.