Plea to Everest climbers


NEPAL has asked climbers on Mount Everest to bring back their oxygen empties instead of abandoning them on mountain slopes, an official said on Monday, as the country struggled with a second wave of Covid-19.

The country issued permits to more than 700 climbers heading for 16 Himalayan peaks – 408 to Mount Everest – for the April-May climbing season, in a bid to get the mountainee­ring industry and tourism up and running again.

The Nepal Mountainee­ring Associatio­n (NMA) has asked the climbers to help deal with a surge in Covid-19 cases that has brought the country’s fragile health system to breaking point, as it has in neighbouri­ng India where the number of deaths held close to record highs on Monday.

Kul Bahadur Gurung, a senior official with the NMA, said climbers and their Sherpa guides were estimated to have carried at least 3 500 oxygen bottles this season. The bottles often get buried in avalanches or are abandoned on the slopes at the end of the expedition.

“We appeal to climbers and Sherpas to bring back their empty bottles wherever possible as they can be refilled and used for the treatment of coronaviru­s patients in dire need,” Gurung said.

On Sunday, Nepal reported a daily increase of more than 8 700 infections, 30 times the number recorded on April 9. The total case load stands at almost 400 000 and close to 4 000 deaths, according to government data.

Many private and community hospitals in Kathmandu have said they are unable to take any more patients due to lack of oxygen. There was a shortage of both gas and canisters.

“We need about 25 000 oxygen cylinders immediatel­y to save people from dying. This is our urgent need. We also need oxygen plants, compressor­s and ICU beds urgently,” Samir Kumar Adhikari, a health ministry official, said.

Nepal has asked China to send 20 000 cylinders, some of which will be airlifted to meet urgent needs.

China has pledged to provide oxygen cylinders, ventilator­s and other medical supplies, Health and Population Minister Hridayesh Tripathi said.

Nepal has only 1 600 intensive care beds and fewer than 600 ventilator­s for its population of 30 million with just 0.7 doctors per 100 000 people. |

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa