22 Apr 2014

Sherpas demand payout after disaster

9:22 am on 22 April 2014

Sherpas have threatened to pull out of a Mt Everest expedition if the families of men killed in the mountain's worst disaster aren't each paid $12,000 in compensation.

The bodies of 13 Nepalese climbers have been found after the avalanche near the Everest base camp on Friday, and three others are presumed dead.

 A relative of one of the Sherpas grieves as bodies arrive at a monastery after the avalanche.

A relative of one of the Sherpas grieves as bodies arrive at a monastery after the avalanche. Photo: AFP

The chair of the Himalayan Trust, Mike Gill says sherpas normally have a life insurance policy worth $10,000 but are now realising that isn't enough.

"They've sent an ultimatum to the Nepalese Government saying 'We want one million rupees ($12,000) for each of the victims of this avalanche and if you don't meet that ultimatum within seven days we're going to pull out' ."

Mr Gill says some sherpas aren't supporting the ultimatum because they can't afford to be out of work.

"In Nepal there's not a lot of jobs around and they're well paid jobs.

Some of them work for three months then they live off that for the remaining nine months because there's no other work."

A BBC correspondent in Kathmandu, Surendra Phuyal, says its likely the terms will be met by the Government.

"A Government official said 'we are very positive about filling their demands'. He also said that the Government has already made some improvements in recent months.

"The insurance amount has been hiked substantially and so it looks like a deal will be made eventually."

Grayson Schaffer, senior editor and writer for Outside Magazine told Morning Report about the tough working conditions and minimal insurance coverage for the Nepalese workers who underpin the mountaineering business in that part of the world.

He says Sherpa porters can make up to $6000 during the climbing season, in a country where the median income is still around $550 or $600 a year.

And when one of those men dies, there's a big ripple effect that goes unseen by the Western business executives and other professionals who pay up to $90,000 each to be taken up.

Often, the dead porters have been supporting their extended families with there wages, so a lot of people are hurt economically when the family breadwinner dies.