Heavy Snow Delays Search For Missing Trekkers In Nepal

Trekkers arrive after a rescue operation from the Annapurna circuit, at the airport of Pokhara, some 200 km west of Kathmandu, on January 18, 2020.
KRISHNA MANI BARAL / AFP

 

Heavy snow, chilling winds and poor visibility hampered the search Sunday for four South Koreans and three Nepalis caught in an avalanche in the popular Annapurna region of the Himalayas, officials said.

Relatives of the missing Koreans have arrived in Kathmandu alongside several officials sent by Seoul to help with the emergency rescue efforts, Ang Dorjee Sherpa of the Korean Alpine Federation told AFP.

The missing group was near the Annapurna base camp around 3,230 metres (10,600 feet) above sea level when the avalanche struck after heavy snowfall on Friday.

“Search and rescue efforts are underway but weather and snow in the area have made it difficult to make much progress,” said Mira Acharya from Nepal’s tourism department.

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Helicopters were sent out on Saturday to rescue about 200 people stranded around Annapurna and other nearby mountains after the incident.

Photos from the area shared on social media showed guesthouses along the trekking route blanketed in a thick layer of snow.

Tek Gurung, a guesthouse owner aiding in the search operation, said more than two metres of snow (6.6 feet) had fallen on the hiking trails.

“We have been searching since yesterday but have not found anything yet. It is very windy and snowy here, to search the snow-covered areas on foot is difficult,” Gurung told AFP over the phone.

“There are still masses of snow falling from above.”

Six of the missing were part of the same expedition, while one Nepali porter was escorting a different group.

The four foreigners — two men and two women — were part of an 11-member team of South Korean nationals.

“The rest of the team are unhurt and have safely come down. We are coordinating to make the search operation effective,” said Dilip Gurung of the tourism management committee in Chhomrong, which lies on the trekking route.

Education officials in Seoul said they were part of a team of volunteer teachers working with children in Nepal.

Two more South Koreans were due to arrive in Nepal on Sunday to help with the search, the country’s foreign ministry said.

Sherpa said it had snowed heavily around Annapurna in recent days, making the trek risky.

“The weather and snow got worse and, feeling it was becoming dangerous and difficult, they decided to turn. As they were heading back the avalanche hit,” Sherpa told AFP on Saturday.

Annapurna is an avalanche-prone and technically difficult mountain range with a higher death rate than Everest, the world’s highest peak.

Thousands of trekkers visit the route every year for its stunning views of the Himalayas.

A snowstorm killed about 40 people on the circuit in 2014, in one of the biggest trekking tragedies to hit Nepal.

AFP

Nepal Arrests 122 Chinese Over Suspected Cyber Scam

 

More than 100 Chinese nationals in Nepal on tourist visas have been detained over a suspected cyber scam, police said Wednesday, in the country’s largest-ever crackdown involving foreigners.

Eight women were among the 122 Chinese nationals arrested in a coordinated police raid on nine houses in the capital Kathmandu on Monday.

Police said the houses were set up like hostels with large kitchens, bunk beds and rows of tables and chairs for working.

“We suspect they were involved in cyber crime. We are investigating the evidence… action will then be taken accordingly,” Niraj Bahadur Shahi, chief of Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau, told AFP.

More than 700 mobile phones, 331 laptops and nearly a hundred desktop computers were confiscated from the houses. Police also gathered pen drives and SIM cards.

Nepal coordinated with Beijing’s National Central Bureau in the operation, Shahi added.

The arrests come days after more than 340 Chinese nationals were arrested in the Philippines in a raid on unlicensed gaming businesses.

And last month almost 700 Chinese nationals were arrested in Malaysia when authorities busted a major online investment scam operation. It is not clear whether the arrests are linked.

AFP

14 Killed In Nepal Pilgrimage Bus Crash

 

At least 14 people died after a bus carrying pilgrims veered off a highway and rolled down a steep slope in central Nepal Sunday, officials said, the latest deadly traffic accident in the Himalayan nation.

Police said the bus carrying 32 passengers plunged 70 metres (230 feet) onto a lower stretch of the winding road in Sindhupalchowk district, around 80 kilometres north-east of the capital Kathmandu.

“We have recovered the bodies of 12 passengers from the accident,” police officer Prajwal Maharjan told AFP, adding that two others had died in hospital.

Four of the dead were children, traffic police added.

Some 18 passengers who were injured were taken to hospital, with officials unclear if the bus driver was among them or had fled the scene of the crash.

The passengers were returning from a pilgrimage to Kalinchowk Bhagawati, a popular Hindu temple located at a heigh of almost 4000 metres in the hills of Nepal’s Dolakha district, around 140 kilometres east of Kathmandu.

The cause of the accident was not yet known, but police said reckless driving down the steep and winding road could have been a key factor.

Deadly traffic accidents are relatively common in the impoverished Himalayan nation because of poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

At least 18 passengers were killed when a bus plunged into a gorge in central Nepal last month.

Three Dead In Nepal Bomb Blast

 

Three people, including a police official, were killed when a bomb exploded in southern Nepal early Saturday.

The device detonated outside a local residence after the owner called the police to report a suspicious object on his premises in Dhanusha district.

“The blast occurred just as our team reached there to investigate. The owner, his son and a member of our force were killed,” senior police official Pradhumna Karki told AFP.

Karki said that two more members of the family and another police officer were also injured and are undergoing treatment.

“We are investigating the case, no one has claimed its responsibility yet,” he said.

Nepal has enjoyed relative peace since the end of a decade-long civil war which concluded with a peace deal struck in 2006.

In May, four people were killed and seven injured in three blasts in the capital Kathmandu, as members of an outlawed Maoist faction made a botched attempt to plant bombs around the city.

AFP

At Least 17 Dead In Nepal Bus Accident

 

At least 17 people, including seven children, died when a crowded bus swerved off the road and plunged into a river in central Nepal on Sunday, officials said.

The bus skidded off the road in Sindhupalchowk district, northwest of the capital Kathmandu, and plunged 50 metres (165 feet) down into the Sunkosi River.

“So far, 17 people have been confirmed dead and another 50 are injured,” district official Goma Devi Chemjong told AFP, adding that 48 others, including the driver, were injured and undergoing treatment.

Local rafters assisted the police and the army to scour the river and rescue any survivors, but some passengers are still feared missing.

“The number of missing is unknown as the bus had no record of the total number of passengers,” Chemjong said

Authorities have not yet confirmed the cause of the crash.

Deadly crashes are relatively common in the impoverished Himalayan nation because of poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

Last month, 11 people died and more than 100 were injured when another bus plunged into a river.

AFP

At Least 50 Dead In Nepal’s Monsoon

A Nepali resident takes shelter after the Balkhu River overflowed following monsoon rains at the Kalanki area of Kathmandu on July 12, 2019. PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP

 

Floods and landslides caused by torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 50 people across Nepal while dozens more are missing, officials said Sunday.

Northeast India has also been hit by floods with 11 deaths recorded as rivers burst their banks.

Heavy rains since Thursday have hit several districts in Nepal, especially in the country’s eastern region and the southern plains, affecting thousands.

Nepal police spokesman Bishwaraj Pokharel said 33 people are missing while over 1,100 people have been rescued.

“We have mobilised all resources in the country for search, rescue and relief and have been able to reach all affected areas,” Pokharel told AFP.

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Authorities said river levels are expected to return to normal from Monday.

Monsoon rains from June to September cause widespread death and destruction across South Asia each year.

In India at least 11 people have died in the country’s northeast, officials said, with some 20,000 being housed in relief camps in badly-hit Assam state.

In Bangladesh, aid groups were providing rations to Rohingya refugees in the southeast of the country with the UN World Food Programme saying Friday that two people including a child had died.

Last year, more than 1,200 people were been killed across South Asia in monsoon storms, with India’s Kerala suffering its worst floods in nearly 100 years.

AFP

Ex-UN Official Jailed For Child Abuse In Nepal

 

A former UN official has been jailed for sexually abusing children in Nepal, officials said Tuesday, following a trial underscoring the country’s growing appeal for foreign paedophiles.

Peter John Dalglish, 62, from Canada, a formerly high-profile humanitarian worker, was sentenced on Monday to two terms of nine and six years in two cases after being convicted last month.

Thakur Trital, a district court official, told AFP that Dalglish had been sentenced for nine years for abusing a 12-year-old boy and seven years jail for molesting another 14-year-old.

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“The judge is yet to decide whether he should serve a total of 16 years in jail or be released after nine years. In most cases of a similar nature, sentences get overlapped but it is upon the judge to decide,” Trital said.

Dalglish has also been told to pay compensation of 500,000 Nepali rupees ($4,550) to each of the victims.

Dalglish was arrested in April last year in Kavrepalanchowk district, near Kathmandu, by Nepal’s Central Bureau of Investigation.

The two boys were at the house where police detained Dalglish, investigators said.

Dalglish denied the charges, and his lawyer could not be reached for comment.

The aid worker, who in 2016 was awarded the Order of Canada — the country’s second-highest civilian honour — made his name as a humanitarian worker advocating for street children, child labourers and those affected by war.

He co-founded Street Kids International in the 1980s which merged with Save the Children.

In the last decade, Dalglish held key positions in UN agencies, including a chief for UN-Habitat in Afghanistan in 2015.

In Nepal, Dalglish was an advisor in a child programme for the International Labour Organization in the early 2000s.

Weak law enforcement has made Nepal notorious for sexual predators, with several arrests and convictions in recent years.

In 2015 a Canadian orphanage volunteer, Ernest MacIntosh, 71, was sentenced to seven years in prison for sexually abusing a disabled 15-year-old boy, while in 2010 French charity worker Jean-Jacques Haye was convicted of raping 10 children at a Kathmandu orphanage.

AFP

China Tackles Waste Problem On Mount Everest

(FILES) This file picture taken on May 21, 2018, shows discarded climbing equipment and rubbish scattered around Camp 4 of Mount Everest. DOMA SHERPA / AFP

 

Climbers with pressing needs on Mount Everest will soon find an “eco-friendly” toilet at a Chinese campsite 7,028 metres (23,058 feet) above sea level in an ongoing campaign to deal with the peak’s waste problem.

Decades of commercial mountaineering have turned Mount Everest into the world’s highest rubbish dump as an increasing number of big-spending mountaineers pay little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind.

Fluorescent tents, discarded climbing equipment, empty gas canisters and even human excrement pollute the well-trodden route to the summit of the 8,848-metre peak.

During the climbing season this spring, a Chinese expedition company will add what state media dubbed an “eco-friendly” loo at the higher campsite on the northern slope in Tibet.

“The toilet makes it easy to collect human waste produced by the climbers as there is a barrel with rubbish bags underneath the toilet,” Xinhua quoted Pema Tinley, deputy secretary general of the Tibet Mountaineering Association, as saying.

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The waste will be collected and brought down the mountain.

Similar facilities have been installed at lower camps, including at the 5,200-metre north base camp, in previous years, according to Xinhua.

The waste from the base camp is taken away daily and is provided to local farmers to use as fertiliser, the news agency reported in February, citing observations by its reporter and a member of the mountaineering management team.

The temporary toilets will be removed at the end of the climbing season.

Governments on both sides of the mountain have been battling the human waste and trash left by an increasing number of climbers.

In February, China banned non-climbers from accessing its Everest base camp in Tibet in an attempt to clean up its side of the mountain.

Meanwhile, engineers in Nepal are considering installing a biogas plant near the more popular south base camp that would turn climber poo into useful fertiliser.

Currently, raw sewage from the camp is carried to the next village –- a one-hour walk –- and dumped into trenches, where it risks contaminating water sources down in the valley.

AFP

 

 

Storm Kills 27, Injures Hundreds In Nepal

 

At least 27 people have been killed and hundreds injured after a freak storm hit southern Nepal, destroying houses, uprooting trees and toppling electricity poles, officials said.

The thunderstorm swept through the district of Bara and adjoining areas late Sunday killing at least 27 people and injuring more than 600, according to the home ministry.

“The winds took away everything, my home and my family,” Ram Babu Patel, 45, who lost his wife in the storm in a village in Bara, told AFP over the phone.

Prakash Tharu, a volunteer on the ground, described a scene of devastation in the villages.

“The storm destroyed everything in its path. Houses have no roofs and trees are all down,” Tharu said.

“There is a desperate need for food and relief.”

Local and district hospitals were inundated with injured victims coming in from the affected areas.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli expressed his condolences in a tweet and said that the government would do its best for treatment of the injured.

Storms causing such high casualties in spring are rare in Nepal.

AFP

Minister Dies As Helicopter Crashes In Nepal

 

A helicopter carrying Nepal’s tourism minister has crashed in Nepal’s hilly east, officials said Wednesday, with no word yet on the fate of those aboard.

The minister, Rabindra Adhikari, was travelling with five other passengers from the eastern district of Taplejung to Terathum when the Air Dynasty chopper went down.

“A helicopter carrying Nepal’s tourism minister has crashed, but we do not have any more information right now,” Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai told reporters.

It is just the latest aviation accident to plague Nepal, an impoverished Himalayan nation with a poor air safety record.

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Nepal has some of the world’s most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge for even accomplished pilots.

In April last year, a Malaysian jet with 139 people on board aborted its takeoff and skidded off a runway.

A month earlier a US-Bangla Airways plane crashed near an airport, killing 51 people.

Nepal-based airlines are banned from flying in European Union airspace.

Its poor air safety record is largely blamed on inadequate maintenance and sub-standard management.

AFP

Spiritual Leader Under Investigation Over Disappearance Of Devotees

Nepali spiritual leader Ram Bahadur Bomjan, dubbed “Buddha Boy”, sits under a tree before an audience gathered to listen to his sermon in Ratanpuri in Bara District, some 100km (62 miles) south of Kathmandu. PANKAJ SHRESTHA / AFP

 

A Nepali spiritual leader believed by his followers to be a reincarnation of Buddha is under investigation over the disappearance of several devotees, police in Kathmandu said Monday.

Ram Bahadur Bomjan, dubbed “Buddha Boy”, became famous in 2005 after followers said he could meditate motionless for months without water, food or sleep in Nepal’s jungles.

The 28-year-old guru has a devout following but has been accused of physically and sexually assaulting some of his flock.

Special police investigators have begun inquiries after the families of four of Bomjan’s devotees allegedly vanished from his ashrams.

“The police have started investigating these complaints against Bomjan,” Uma Prasad Chaturbedi, a spokesman for Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau, told AFP.

“The investigation is in preliminary stage and we cannot share many details.”

Bomjan has long been dogged by accusations of abuse in deeply spiritual Nepal, even as thousands of worshippers queued for days to witness his so-called miracles of meditation deep in the jungle.

In September last year, an 18-year-old nun accused the guru of raping her at one of his ashrams.

Dozens more have filed complaints against him alleging assault. The self-styled godman said he beat them for disturbing his meditation.

The Bodhi Shrawan Dharma Sangha, an organisation associated with the guru, recently slammed as baseless a series of fresh allegations made by a local website, Setopati.com, which published reports detailing cases of disappearances, sexual assault and violence in his ashrams.

AFP

23 Dead As Bus Carrying Students In Nepal Crashes

 

Twenty-three people died in western Nepal when a bus carrying school students and teachers back from a botanical field trip plunged into a gorge, police said.

The students were aged mostly between 16 and 20. Two teachers and the driver also died in the accident early evening on Friday in a remote area.

The vehicle was carrying 37 people, with 22 killed at the scene and another in a nearby hospital. Fourteen people were treated for injuries.

“Our preliminary investigation shows the cause of the incident was speed,” police officer Bel Bahadur Pandey told AFP.

Road accidents are relatively common in Nepal because of poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

The latest comes a week after a truck accident in central Nepal killed 20 mourners returning from a funeral ritual.