Nepal is so short of oxygen canisters that it has asked climbers on Mount Everest to bring back their empties instead of abandoning them on mountain slopes, an official told Reuters on Monday.
Kul Bahadur Gurung, a senior official with the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said climbers and their Sherpa guides were estimated to have carried at least 3,500 oxygen bottles this season. These bottles often get buried in avalanches or are abandoned 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 the coronavirus patients who are in dire needs,” Gurung told Reuters.
The country issued climbing permits to more than 700 climbers for 16 Himalayan peaks – 408 to Mount Everest – for the April-May climbing season in a bid to get the mountaineering industry and tourism back up and running.
Our international correspondent Peter Beaumont has reported that the Covid situation in Nepal may be as bad, if not worse, than in neighbouring India, with which it shares a long and porous border.
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 the gas and canisters. “We need about 25,000 oxygen cylinders immediately to save people from dying. This is our urgent need,” Samir Kumar Adhikari, a health ministry official, said.