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Nepal Sherpas demand compensation following deadly Everest avalanche

Nepal's Sherpas have demanded more compensation for the families of local guides killed in Friday's avalanche on Mount Everest. It was the deadliest accident ever on the world's highest peak.

Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said Monday that Sherpas want the government to offer more compensation and insurance for guides and their families.

"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."

Local guides and support staff held an emergency meeting Sunday in response to the accident and outlined their demands to the government in a statement released on the group's website.

The guides have demanded that the government pay the medical bills for the injured and raise the insurance cover to $20,000 (14,500 euros) from $10,000.

"If the demands are not met, we will be forced to launch strong protests for the sake of the daily bread of the entire Sherpa community," the Sherpas said in the statement, giving a seven day deadline.

Everest climbers currently pay a fee of $25,000 plus a $4,000 deposit to ensure they return to base camp with their garbage. Sherpas earn $3,000 to $6,000 a season - about 10 times the average annual pay in Nepal.

The government has announced an immediate payment of 40,000 rupees ($400, 300 euros) to the victims' families to cover funeral costs, a sum relatives have called a pittance.

Deadliest accident on Everest

Climbing on the mountain has been temporarily halted as search teams continued to dig through snow and ice for the missing.

The bodies of at least 13 guides have recovered with three still missing. Another three guides remain in critical condition with broken limbs, ribs, and other injuries in Kathmandu hospitals.

The avalanche swept through the Khumbu Icefall area of the mountain on Friday at an altitude of 5,800 meters (19,000 feet). The accident underscored the huge risks faced by Sherpas who maintain and prepare the icy slopes for climbers and trek the routes carrying equipment for their clients.

Any expedition cancellations are likely to have an impact on the impoverished Himalayan country's economy which counts on tourism as a key revenue-earner. Nepal is home to eight of the world's 14 peaks that surpass 8,000 meters.

Nearly 4,000 people have climbed Mount Everest since 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first scaled the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit. Since then, more than 300 people have died on the mountain.

Friday's avalanche is the worst accident to hit Mount Everest since May 1996, when eight climbers were killed in one day due to a snow storm near the summit. The tragedy was immortalized in Jon Krakauer's best-selling book "Into Thin Air."

hc/ng (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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