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Avalanche kills at least 12 guides in deadliest incident on Mount Everest

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Avalanche kills at least 12 guides in deadliest incident on Mount Everest | Thaiger

PHUKET: An avalanche sweeping down Mount Everest killed at least 12 Nepali guides on Friday in what may be the deadliest single incident on the world’s highest peak.

The avalanche struck a perilous passage on the main route to the summit as sherpas were preparing the way for climbers at the start of the season. Nepal’s tourism ministry listed the 12 dead and four others missing, presumed buried in the snowslide.

Scottish film maker Ed Wardle put the death toll at 16 – including five from his own party – with more badly injured.

“One of the most horrific sites I ever saw on Everest was seeing the bodies being airlifted on long lines below the helicopters,” he told Britain’s Channel 4 News.

It was Everest’s first major avalanche of this year’s climbing season, when hundreds of foreign and Nepali climbers will attempt to reach its 8,848-metre peak.

The Himalayan Guides, a Nepali hiking group, said six of its sherpas had gone ahead of climbers they were accompanying in order to fix ropes and crack snow and ice to carve out a route, when they were caught in the avalanche and died.

“They were very strong and skilled climbers. It is a natural disaster and no one could do anything about it,” Ishwari Paudel, the owner of the company, said in Kathmandu. The other victims were working for other mountaineering parties.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled Everest’s summit since it was first climbed by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953. The route they took along the South Col was the one hit by the avalanche on Friday.

The search for the missing was called off for the night and will resume on Saturday, Lakpa Sherpa of the Himalayan Rescue Association told Reuters from Base Camp.

“The atmosphere at Base Camp is now of shock and of grieving,” film maker Wardle told Channel 4, adding that “many of the expeditions here will pack up and go home.”

“For this number of people to die at the very beginning of the season is completely unacceptable. We came here looking for adventure, to celebrate Everest, but for something like this to happen makes the whole thing seem pointless.”

CLIMBERS CUT OFF

The avalanche that hit at around 6:30 a.m. left dozens of other climbers who had reached more advanced camps on the mountain unable to return to Base Camp, mountaineer and blogger Alan Arnette wrote from the scene.

“An estimated 100 sherpas or Westerners were estimated to be above the impact area and are cut off from returning to Base Camp until a new route can be put in,” Arnette wrote, adding that this could take days.

The avalanche struck at the Khumbu Icefall, a treacherous passage between Base Camp and Camp 1 riddled with crevasses and columns of ice known as seracs, Adrian Ballinger of California-based Alpenglow Expeditions told Reuters.

“In many ways it’s always the most dangerous part of the mountain to climb, because the ice is constantly moving, there’s so many crevasses and seracs where you need to use ladders and ropes to get through the very technical terrain,” he said.

Above stands a feature called the West Shoulder that can shed avalanches on a “pretty regular basis”, said Ballinger.

“Whenever we’re in it, and whenever anyone’s in it, we’re very conscious of moving as quickly and as efficiently as possible because there is this sort of uncontrolled risk.”

OLDEST AMERICAN

A travel blog for 67-year-old Ed Marzec, a Californian attempting to become the oldest American to climb Everest, reported that he was among tourists preparing to set out when the avalanche happened.

“We’ve just heard from Ed. He is safe and sound at Base Camp,” said the update.

“Asha, a sherpa on Ed’s team, has been lost in the avalanche,” the update continued. “He was a member of the pioneering Sherpa group who went up to first camp to set ropes. He has a wife and two young children, ages one and three.”

The tourism ministry said it would make payments of $400 to the families of each of the victims to cover funeral costs.

Nearly 250 people have died on Everest, which is on the border between Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet.

A rising number of tourists has raised concerns about safety and environmental damage, although Nepal still plans next year to cut fees for those wishing to do the trek.

The government has issued permits to 334 foreign climbers this season, up from 328 for the whole of last year. An equal number of guides also climb to help the foreign mountaineers.

Overcrowding is a problem near the summit, where climbers wait their turn to scale or descend a steep rock formation called the Hillary Step, but Paudel of the Himalayan Guides said of the accident: “It had nothing to do with the overcrowding.”

Authorities are installing two ropes – one to go up and one to come down – in an effort to ease congestion at the Hillary Step, located in Everest’s “death zone” because of its thin air.

The climbing season usually ends in late May when rainy season winds and clouds push up from the south to cloak the Himalayas, making high altitude climbing virtually impossible.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

India sees record Covid-19 infections, oxygen shortages

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India sees record Covid-19 infections, oxygen shortages | Thaiger
PHOTO: India's Covid-19 infections spread while oxygen supplies dwindle.

India is experiencing record infections and deaths due to Covid-19 and is now running dangerously low on oxygen supplies. The countries second wave of the virus includes a dangerous virus variant that is spreading quickly and has infected 3.5 million people just this month. In the last 24 hours, 295,000 new infections occurred with just over 2,000 deaths. Prime minister Narendra Modi said that India was in for a big fight and that the second wave of Covid-19 came like a storm.

India had done relatively well during the first wave of the coronavirus for a country dense with 1.3 billion inhabitants. In the last few weeks though people have let their guard down with millions attending religious festivals cricket matches huge weddings, and political rallies around the country. This coinciding with delays and even stopping of production for Covid-19 vaccines and medication along with a lack of oxygen being generated in India is leading to new levels of crisis.

With oxygen supplies dwindling throughout India, relatives of Covid-19 patients are buying black-market oxygen supplies for hyper-inflated prices. Some hospitals are said to be down to their last few hours of oxygen supplies. The health minister of New Delhi is pleading with the government to focus on the oxygen supply chain in India before it devolves into a serious crisis.

Mumbai is the centre of this most recent surge and oxygen shortages there are no better. One doctor said in the event of an oxygen shortage they would usually just relocate patients to another hospital, but now no hospital has the needed surplus. The prime minister said that the government, federal and local, along with private enterprise are working to increase oxygen supplies in India.

New Delhi is in the middle of a week-long lockdown and several other Indian States are facing shut down this weekend. Several countries are cancelling flights or moving India to advisory lists, urging their citizens not to travel there. The United Kingdom and the United States have both flagged India as unsafe to travel, while New Zealand and Hong Kong have completely banned flights.

Vaccination has been hit or miss in India, with early criticism for exporting jobs produced there while so few had been administered locally. Now India has stopped exporting AstraZeneca vaccines, and more than 130 million jabs have been given though supplies have still been limited. Data is expected in the next few weeks about the effect of the Indian Covid-19 variant. As of now, India is second to only the US in total cases with 15.6 million infections and over 180,000 deaths.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand launches Covid-19 vaccine passport for international travel

Maya Taylor

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Thailand launches Covid-19 vaccine passport for international travel | Thaiger
PHOTO: Marco Verch / Flickr

The Thai government has confirmed it is adopting a vaccine passport scheme, to provide vaccinated residents with proof of Covid-19 inoculation. The vaccine passport will be an official document which can be used by vaccinated people travelling abroad. Details of the scheme have now been published in the Royal Gazette, making it official.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Royal Gazette has also published the format of the vaccine passport, which has been approved by Opas Karnkawinpong from the Department of Disease Control. The cover contains text in English and Thai, which bears the department’s name and that of the Public Health Ministry. It carries the national emblem of Thailand, the garuda, and the wording, “Covid-19 Certificate of Vaccination”.

The vaccine passport also contains the owner’s name, as well as his or her national identification or passport number, and confirmation that the holder is vaccinated against Covid-19. It’s understood that only vaccines approved by Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration or by the World Health Organisation, will be recognised in the vaccine passport scheme.

In order to be valid, the vaccine passport must be signed by an approved disease control official. The Royal Gazette has published an order from the Department of Disease Control authorising 6 such officials to sign the document.

Each vaccine passport is for individual use only. Parents of children under the age of 7 will be required to sign their document for them, while people who cannot write will be required to provide a fingerprint.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Tourism

World’s most travel-friendly passport list – 2021

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World’s most travel-friendly passport list – 2021 | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Japan tops the list of most travel-friendly passports.

The Henley Passport Index, which rates which passports are the most travel-friendly, has just released the list for 2021, with Japan once again at the top of the list.

But the Index noted that this year’s international travel freedom comparison is mostly theoretical as the current Covid-19 situation continues to limit most international travel.

With a Japanese passport, travellers can enter 193 countries without a visa or with a visa-on-arrival. On the other end of the list, an Afghanistan passport can only get into 26 countries. The gap of 167 countries is the widest gap since the Henley Passport Index began tracking this data 15 years ago in 2006.

Singapore kept its second-place this year standing with just one less destination than Japan, followed by Germany and South Korea tied for 3rd place with 191 destinations. The rest of the top 10 are mainly European countries, with the exception of New Zealand and the US as part of the 5-way tie for 7th place with 187 destinations, and Australia and Canada tied for 9th place with 185 destinations.

The US and UK passports took a tumble, once tied for the most travel-friendly passport back in 2014, now losing ground slipping to 7th place. On the other hand, United Arab Emirates strengthened diplomatic ties worldwide and jumped 50 spots this year from 65th all the way to 15th. Over the decade, the climb is even more dramatic, with the Emirates exploding from 67 destinations 10 years ago up 107 destinations to 174 this year. China did well also, climbing 22 places since 2011, up to number 68 on the list.

Thailand’s passport is tied with Saudi Arabia at 66th with 79 destinations available without an advance visa.

The full list of most travel-friendly passports…
1. Japan (193 destinations)
2. Singapore (192)
3. Germany, South Korea (191)
4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (190)
5. Austria, Denmark (189)
6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden (188)
7. Belgium, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (187)
8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway (186)
9. Australia, Canada (185)
10. Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia (183)

Henley and Partners predict that the spread in passport access will mirror Covid-19 affected travel. Rich and mobile regions like the US, UK, EU and UAE are getting access to vaccination, hastening their ability to travel, while poorer and developing economies are experiencing a much slower vaccine roll-out.

Experts from Syracuse University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Migration Policy Centre predict this trend will continue with potentially devastating long-term effects.

Countries that can afford and facilitate vaccination for their citizens quickly will be able to welcome travellers in for tourism and business and be able to travel more themselves. Conversely, countries that can’t afford the storage and distribution of vaccines will be less able to travel or welcome tourism income, widening a global wealth gap.

Remote working and the digital nomad lifestyle has been booming in recent years and with Covid-19 forcing businesses to adapt to telecommuting, the post-pandemic world will see more remote working, and countries falling behind with vaccinations will suffer the long-term loss in tourism dollars too.

SOURCE: CNN

World's most travel-friendly passport list - 2021 | News by Thaiger

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