Stranded Mount Everest Tourists Airlifted Out

  @MarkJohansonIBT on November 07 2011 10:12 AM
Kathmandu Airport
A tourist waves as she arrives from Lukla at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu November 6, 2011. Tourists stranded in Lukla have arrived in Tribhuvan airport after the weather started to clear on Sunday. About 2,500 foreign tourists, mainly Europeans, have been stranded at Lukla airport, the gateway to Mt. Everest, due to bad weather and heavy fog for the last five days. The bad weather and high altitude have also made it difficult for small helicopters to transport the stranded tourists, according to local media. REUTERS

A rescue effort is underway to collect over 2,000 trekkers stranded for six days near Mount Everest in the remote, mountainous region of northeastern Nepal.

The foreign tourists, Nepalese guides and porters hunkered down in Lukla - the gateway for trekkers wishing to scale the world's tallest peak - due to bad weather.

Weather conditions improved on Monday, and the process of transporting tourists to the nation's capital and largest city, Kathmandu, was fully underway, the tourism ministry said.

The target is to transport 1,500 tourists to Kathmandu today, Hari Basyal, spokesman of the Nepal Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, told CNN.

Over 2,200 people have been stranded in Lukla since last week. On Sunday, at least 500 trekkers were flown to Kathmandu and stranded trekkers took 48 flights and helicopter rides out of Lukla on Monday.

Hotels were reportedly overflowing and food scarce as the influx of tourists waited for a flight out of the Tenzing-Hillary airport.

Lukla, which lies at a height of 9,186 feet, is located about 78 miles northeast of Kathmandu. Lukla airport, the only airstrip in the region, is one the busiest airports in Nepal. As many as 55 flights a day touch down in Lukla during the Everest region's peak season from September to November.

Flights between Lukla and Kathmandu had been grounded since Oct. 31 and the hotels of Solukhumbu District were forced to use their dining rooms as sleeping quarters for tourists while many guides and porters slept outside, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, trekkers at higher altitudes on Everest were asked not to descend to Lukla because there was no space left.

There were no reports of any health issues during the delay. Most tourists were reportedly concerned about missed flights, expired visas, and jobs back home.

Tens of thousands of trekkers and climbers visit the Solukhumbu region in northeastern Nepal each year. Most begin their adventure at the small, windswept resort town of Lukla.

Nepal is South Asia's poorest county. It receives nearly four percent of its gross domestic product from tourists who venture into the scenic countryside to wander through the Himalayan highlands. The nation has eight of the world's 14 highest peaks including Mt. Everest, which stands at 29,029 feet.

Last year, a similar stretch of bad weather stranded tourists for 15 days, resulting in a severe food crisis.

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