Britons among 2,000 hikers stranded near Mount Everest


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The Independent Online

British tourists are among up to 2,000 hikers stranded near Mount Everest with food running low after fog and cloud forced the area's only airport to shut down for four days.

Trekkers from the UK, as well as the US and Germany, are among those stuck in the Nepalese hill resort of Lukla with hundreds living in tents and in the dining halls of local hotels.

With aircraft currently unable to take off or land and the treacherous weather not expected to clear until tomorrow, it was reported yesterday that the Himalayan Rescue Association and the Tourism Crisis Cell had called an emergency meeting to find a way to rescue the tourists.

Large helicopters are likely to be called into action, officials have said. "Visibility is almost nil. Fog and clouds have covered the entire area making flights by fixed-wing small aircraft impossible," Utsav Raj Kharel, head of the remote Tenzing-Hillary Airport, told Reuters. "Though a few small private helicopters had picked some tourists from nearby Sirke village, they are inadequate to clear the rush."

The airport lies 2,800m above sea level, a considerable height but still far below Everest's peak at 8,850m. It was named in 2008 after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the two men who in 1953 became the first to climb the world's highest mountain.

Some have called it the most dangerous – and the most exciting – airport in the world, and thousands pass through the airstrip every year via flights from the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

Given its location it is not unusual for flights to be suspended temporarily due to the weather, but the latest closure is one of the most extreme to have hit the region in some years.