Nepal protested India's inauguration of a new road to China that passes through territory claimed by Kathmandu on Saturday, with police arresting dozens demonstrating close to India's embassy. Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh on Friday inaugurated via video link the 80-kilometre (50 miles) long road from Ghatiabagarh in northern Uttarakhand state to the Lipu Lekh pass high in the Himalaya. The pass is claimed by Nepal based on an 1816 treaty that defines its western border with India. Kathmandu also claims the adjoining and strategic Kalapani as a part of its territory, although Indian troops have been deployed there since New Delhi fought a war with China in 1962. Last year New Delhi published a new map that showed Kalapani within its borders, a move protested by Kathmandu. Nepal's foreign ministry condemned India's ‘unilateral act’ that ‘runs against the understanding reached between the two countries... that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiations.’ It called on India ‘to refrain from carrying out any activity inside’ in the territory. Police said at least 38 people were detained as they gathered outside the Indian embassy in Kathmandu and other areas to protest the inauguration of the road. A nationwide coronavirus lockdown has been imposed in Nepal. Nepal protested to India and China in 2015 when the two countries issued a joint statement listing the Lipu Lekh pass as a bilateral trade route. The hashtag #backoffindia was trending on Twitter in Nepal Saturday. The same hashtag gained widespread traction in 2015, when landlocked Nepal accused its giant southern neighbour of imposing a border blockade as the country recovered from two devastating earthquakes. Bhekh Bahadur Thapa a former ambassador to India, said the new road seeks ‘to disrupt cordial relations’ between the two countries. ‘Both sides have admitted the territory is disputed... But the unilateral and forceful move from India amid the talks has dashed friendly relation between the two neighbours,’ he said.
Pradeep Raj Lamsal, who works in the Middle East, was in for a rude shock when his company asked him not to come to the office for at least six months after he was told to stay home without pay in March when a coronavirus lockdown was enforced in the region. Lamsal, like other hundreds of thousands of Nepalis working abroad, is preparing to return home as the tiny landlocked Himalayan nation braces for one of the biggest losses to its economy as the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated jobs and dwindled remittances from migrant workers, Efe news reported. “I’m running out of money. I’m in big trouble,” Lamsal told EFE on the phone from Dubai. He said he had filled a form on the website of the Nepalese embassy in the UAE to enable his return but to no avail. “The embassy officials are not responding,” said the 30-year-old, who has been working for a multinational retail chain. Lamsal’s crisis has cut off the lifeline to his family of five in Nepal. He used to send them $500 monthly out of his salary of $750. “Now it’s difficult to manage the family expenses as all income sources have dried up,” he said. Plunging remittances have threatened small economies of developing countries like Nepal that partially depend on money sent home by migrants. According to the World Bank, Nepal received remittances worth $8.64bn or 27.3% of its GDP in 2019, among the highest in South Asia. However, a recent World Bank report warned that this year remittances could drop as much as 14% or $1.2bn. The bank said remittances across South Asia could slump by 22% due to the coronavirus outbreak and a related oil price crash as lockdowns, travel bans, and social distancing have brought global economic activities to “a near standstill”. On April 14, some Gulf countries, including the UAE, urged other nations to repatriate their citizens as the pandemic had hit their economies. There are around 225,000 Nepalese citizens in the UAE alone. “(Almost) all have decided to return home. I’m waiting for the governments of Nepal and the UAE to lift the lockdown so I can board a plane,” Narayan Bhandari, who moved to the UAE seven months ago, told EFE. His employer fired Bhandari, a taxi driver hailing from southwest Nepal, in late March. He said he had sold land worth Rs300,000 ($2,500) to move to the Middle East. “Now I have to return empty-handed,” said Bhandari, who has depended on the Nepalese diaspora in the UAE for food and accommodation since he was laid off along with two dozen other workers. No Nepalese workers have been able to migrate abroad since March 24, when the country sealed its borders, an unprecedented halt in migration in at least two decades. “With the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projecting a contraction in economies of the Gulf countries in 2020, hundreds of Nepalese are expected to lose their jobs and return home. This will affect the inflow of remittance,” Gunakar Bhatta, the spokesperson of Nepal Rastra Bank, - the central bank of Nepal - said. The World Bank has said that the economic slowdown is likely to affect remittance outflows to South Asia from the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, apart from the oil crash linked outflow from the Gulf countries and Malaysia. According to official data, around 1.5mn Nepalis have been working abroad in just five countries: Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait. This is in addition to the 3-4mn Nepalis in India, although the unofficial estimates vary widely. “Some employers have already started laying-off employees whereas others have asked them to stay on unpaid leave for some time,” said Jeevan Baniya, a labour and migration expert at the Nepalese think-tank Social Science Baha. “Even when the lockdowns are relaxed, they are not likely to be employed as a result of the global recession triggered by the coronavirus.” However, economist Rameshore Khanal said that Nepal should see the mass return of workers as an opportunity. “The government should introduce targeted schemes for them ... to make the country self-sufficient in food production. They and their skill should be mobilised in the agriculture sector which is suffering from the shortage of manpower,” he said.
Search teams looking for the bodies of four South Koreans killed in a Himalayas avalanche have found the frozen corpse of their Nepali guide, police said Saturday. A wall of snow hit the trekkers at about 3,230 metres near the Annapurna base camp in Nepal on January 17. But avalanches and more snowfall since have made it too dangerous to launch a proper hunt. Police returned to the area on Friday after thawing snow revealed a bag. "Our team then found the body as the snow melted," Kaski district police chief Dan Bahadur Karki, told AFP. Karki said that no decision has been taken yet whether to resume a full search for the South Koreans. "The snow is still very deep in the area where we suspect the bodies are. We are still discussing what to do next," he said. Nepal has also been in a coronavirus lockdown for the past month with all trekking permits suspended. Thousands of trekkers visit Nepal every year for its stunning views of the Himalayas and routes lined with picturesque villages. The Annapurna region is particularly popular, with more than 170,000 visitors in 2018.
It has been five years since an earthquake devastated Nepal, but Krishna Maya Khadka is still struggling to come to terms with losing her husband and the home she lived in for generations. Like hundreds of thousands of Nepali quake victims, the 68-year-old now lives in a small one-bedroom hut with a blue corrugated iron-sheet roof - one of many that scar the picturesque villages turned to rubble by the disaster. Since the 7.8-magnitude quake struck on April 25, 2015, killing nearly 9,000 people and leaving millions homeless in the Himalayan nation, the government has faced criticism over the slow pace of reconstruction. The rebuilding efforts have been hit by political infighting, bureaucracy and confusion. About a quarter of victims’ homes have yet to be rebuilt, although authorities say the remaining houses are expected to be completed within a year. Those who have new homes, like Khadka, say a Rs300,000 ($2,450) government grant to build the quake-resilient structures has been woefully insufficient and left families having to cram into tiny, suffocating spaces. “Those who have money have no problems, they are already building, it is poor people like us who suffer,” Khadka, who lives with her daughter and several goats and chickens in one of the worst-hit districts, Sindhupalchowk, said. “This is nothing like our old home, now we eat and sleep in the same room. It is very difficult... It was impossible for me to make anything bigger, I had to take a loan to even make this small house.” Rural Nepalis have traditionally lived in mud-and-stone houses two or three storeys high, with space for a large extended family, farm animals and grain stores. But a survey last year showed the number of homes measuring 26 to 50sq m (280-538sq ft), typically with only two rooms, doubled after the quake. In Bhaktapur city near the capital Kathmandu, Anjana Tajale is about to finish building a two-room hut funded with the sale of her family’s ancestral land. Tajale and her family of seven spent the first year after the disaster - the worst quake to hit Nepal in 80 years - in a temporary shelter in the shadow of their damaged home. They had to resort to selling their land to move out of the unsafe building. But the new, modest structure will be a tight squeeze for her in-laws and two children. “I hope the government pays attention to how the people are rebuilding... their economic conditions,” Tajale said. “It would be better if the government understood that and gave more aid to those who need it.” An immediate priority of the government had been to ensure affected families had a home, said Faris Hadad-Zervos, Nepal country manager for the World Bank, which offered up to half a billion dollars to finance reconstruction. Nepal’s rebuilding chief Sushil Gyewali, who helms the estimated $9bn recovery fund, said the grants for families were sizeable for the impoverished country. The national reconstruction body was working with local governments “so that if anyone wants to expand they can do so while keeping the house resilient”, Gyewali added. But with houses just a fraction of the size they used to be, some people have resorted to returning to their old, damaged houses, or to building flimsy extensions that are not quake-resilient. “We are already seeing the trend of people expanding their small homes vertically or horizontally to meet their needs,” said Minar Thapa Magar, national co-ordinator at the Housing Recovery and Reconstruction Platform, which commissioned the survey. “That makes them even more vulnerable (to earthquakes) in the future,” he said.
Poachers in Nepal are taking advantage of slack monitoring and sparse public movement during the Covid-19 lockdown, with the country seeing a surge in killing of wildlife under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. Officials say that an elephant and three crocodiles have been killed since the country went into lockdown on March 24, a period which also saw a deadly encounter between poachers and wildlife rangers. ‘We have increased patrolling following a rise in the movement of poachers; But its not surprising as we were expecting that something like this would happen,’ Bishnu Prasad Shrestha, a spokesperson for Nepal's Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), told dpa on Saturday. DNPWC officials said that three critically endangered Gharial crocodiles were killed around Chitwan National Park, while the elephant was found electrocuted in the buffer zone of the Bardiya National Park in western Nepal. Authorities have buried the adult elephant after taking out its tusks and nails. National parks across the country have been reporting incidents of encounters between wildlife rangers and poachers. On March 27, a poacher was shot dead, while a wildlife ranger belonging to the Nepal Army was seriously injured in crossfire that occurred in Parsa National Park in Nepal's central region bordering India. Experts say multiple factors - including the impact of Covid-19 on the livelihoods of poor people, less patrolling, little movement of people and entry of animals into human settlements - are contributing to the increase in poaching activities. ‘This is also a time when villages are witnessing a rise in people returning from big cities in the wake of the lockdown,’ Ananath Baral, chief ranger of the Bardiya National Park, told dpa. ‘Naturally, people with a criminal mindset are also returning. ‘They are trying to take advantage of the lockdown,’ he said, adding that some incidents are also resulting from human-wildlife conflict. Wildlife activists in Nepal have forecast a rise in poaching activities as the lockdown continues to affect the livelihoods of poor people, including daily wage labourers.
Police in Nepal have raised eyebrows during the Covid-19 pandemic with their unusual technique for arresting violators of the nationwide lockdown: a claw-like clamp attached to a rod that apprehends the offender at a safe distance. Police have arrested over 9,000 people wandering in public places since Nepal on March 24 began enforcing a lockdown, invoking the Infectious Disease Control Act which allows authorities to give an offender up to one month in prison or a fine or both. More than 1,400 have been taken into custody using the “multi-functional arrest device,” according to Deputy Superintendent Pawan Kumar Bhattarai, an expert on the apparatus who himself has arrested dozens of people. “It’s not just easy to use, but very safe both for police and the offenders,” Bhattarai, an officer with Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Division who has trained 140 members of his team to use the device, said. “We may have to run behind the offender if they try to escape, but there is no escaping once the fork catches the person.” Each day, Kathmandu police deploy three or four mobile patrol units of officers equipped with the special tool. The sight of police running behind people with the extendable claw has become common in recent days. While some are released after warning, others are taken to the police station and detained for a few hours. “We usually release them after a few hours after telling them why the government enforced the lockdown and about the usefulness of the social distancing to prevent Covid-19,” said Nepal police spokesperson Umesh Raj Joshi. Joshi said that device was brought into use to help prevent the risk of infection by allowing police to keep a safe distance from the public. Thousands of medical staff and police are working on the front line without personal protective equipment (PPE) due to the widespread scarcity of such medical gear. On Sunday, Nepal bought several tons of medical supplies, gear, and test kits from China amid media reports that health staff are refusing to attend to the patients due to the lack of PPEs. This is not the first time police have used the claw. Bhattarai said that they have been deployed for other purposes, like pulling dead bodies out of the water.
Four veteran Sherpa climbers left on Monday for Mount Everest on a mission to climb the world’s highest mountain in five days from the Nepali side, aiming to set a record for its shortest winter ascent in nearly three decades, hiking officials said. If successful, the team led by 34-year-old Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, who has climbed Everest eight times, will be the first to climb the 8,850-metre (29,035-ft) peak in 27 years during winter, when freezing cold and shorter daylight hours make climbing difficult. ‘We know it is extremely risky and difficult to climb Sagarmatha during the winter, but we are very well acclimatised and prepared for this,’ Sherpa told reporters, using the name by which Nepalis refer to Mount Everest. ‘Ours is a strong team and we have confidence that we can do it,’ he added, before flying in a helicopter to base camp at Everest. Temperatures in the death zone of Everest, so-called because of thin air above its South Col, can drop as low as to -40 degrees C (-40°F) in winter, making climbing more challenging and risky than the popular spring season, say hiking officials. The last winter ascent of the mountain dates to 1993, and many winter expeditions since have failed to reach the top, said Mira Acharya, an official of Nepal's tourism department. Climbers usually spend several weeks on Everest acclimatising and preparing for summit bids, but compressing that into five days is very challenging and risky, said Shanta Bir Lama, the chief of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. Last year was Everest's deadliest since 2015, with 11 climbers, most of them Indian, dying, nine on the Nepali side and two on the Tibetan side. Since Everest was first summitted by New Zealand beekeeper Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953, about 5,000 people have reached the top, but more than 300 people have died on its slopes. Two teams from Germany and Spain are now on Everest battling cold weather, hiking officials said.
Nepal on Sunday evacuated 175 of its nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak, an official said, after protests by parents of students studying in the city. A plane operated by state-owned Nepal Airlines carrying 134 men and 41 women, mostly students, landed at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport before dawn, Health Ministry spokesman Mahendra Shrestha said. All evacuees will be held in quarantine for two weeks in the nearby town of Bhaktapur. "They will be under the close observation of doctors in quarantine and will be allowed to join their families if found healthy after two weeks," Shrestha told Reuters. Last week parents protested in front of the Health Ministry demanding that Nepali students in Wuhan be brought home sooner. The government said delays were due to the time needed to prepare buildings to keep the returnees in quarantine. Nepal has only one confirmed case of coronavirus so far.
A Nepali student home from China tested positive for the new coronavirus, an official in Kathmandu said on Friday, making it the first confirmed case in the Himalayan nation. "One patient tested positive for coronavirus. He is a Nepali student studying in China," Mahendra Shrestha, a Health Ministry spokesperson, told Reuters. The student had come home on holiday from Wuhan in China, a ministry of health statement said. He is being kept under surveillance and those in close contact with him were being investigated. The airport in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, was closed on Jan. 23. The ministry said it was seeking health information from all passengers travelling from China into Nepal. China has stepped up measures to contain the virus, which has killed 25 people and infected more than 800, with public transport suspensions in 10 cities, temples shutting, and the rapid construction of a new hospital to treat those infected.
A former Maoist leader accused of ordering a man’s death during Nepal’s civil war is set to become the speaker of the parliament, officials confirmed yesterday, sparking criticism from rights activists. Agni Sapkota, a senior member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, has faced several hearings in the Supreme Court after a case was lodged against him over the death of Arjun Bahadur Lama. Sapkota denies any involvement and has not been charged. Witnesses say Lama was abducted from his village in 2005 by Maoist insurgents and later killed. More than 17,000 people were killed, 1,300 disappeared and thousands were displaced during the war which ended with a peace deal between Maoist insurgents and government forces in 2006. Many former rebels now fill the political ranks of Nepal’s ruling party. Sapkota was the only candidate to put his name forward for the position of speaker after an agreement among senior party leaders. “The house meeting on Sunday will formally announce his election to the speaker post because he is unopposed,” Parliament Secretariat spokesman Rojnath Pandey said yesterday. The speaker’s post has been vacant since October after then-speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara, also a senior member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party and a former Maoist rebel, stepped down over attempted rape allegations. Lama’s wife Purnimaya Tamang said Sapkota should be punished for her husband’s death. “How can someone responsible for the murder of my husband be elected speaker?” Tamang told Republica newspaper. “How can they appoint a criminal to such a prestigious position?” Civil and human rights activists on Tuesday issued a statement saying they opposed his candidacy. “The case has made mockery of (the) rule of law and undermined human rights obligations, and disrespected Purnimaya Lama and other victims struggling for justice,” the statement said. Despites thousands of complaints, two war crime commissions set up in 2015 have been unable to make progress on a single case, stymied by a lack of funding and political will. Just two convictions related to civil war-era crimes have been handed down in civilian courts, one linked to the murder of a teenage girl and the other concerning the killing of a journalist.
Eight Indian tourists including four children died of suspected suffocation in a hotel in Nepal on Tuesday, police said, after trying to keep warm by using a gas heater during the night. The victims were staying in Daman, a hill resort south of Kathmandu which is known for its panoramic views of the Himalayas. "They had lit a gas heater to keep the room warm and probably suffocated," police official Hobindra Bogati told Reuters. Seven other tourists in the group were unharmed. Tourism is a major source of revenue for Nepal's economy, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs. Last year just over 1 million tourists visited the country, of which the biggest contingent - around a tenth - came from India.
A former police officer was among three Islamist militants killed in a gunbattle with Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir on Monday, security officials said. They said Adil Bashir Sheikh, a former special police officer, stole a cache of automatic weapons from the house of a local legislator in September 2018 and joined the militant group Hizbul Mujahideen. He was killed along with two other men in the Shopian district of Kashmir after being surrounded by security forces. The three men were responsible for the deaths of a dozen people, including four police officers, according to Dilbagh Singh, director general of Jammu and Kashmir Police. "It is a major success for security forces," he said. "It was a successful operation," Singh told a news conference. Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan territory, is claimed by both India and Pakistan and they have fought two wars over the region. Both claim it in full but rule it in part. Tensions in Kashmir have been especially acute over the last year. India and Pakistan both said they carried out air strikes in enemy territory after a February 2019 suicide bombing by a Pakistan-based militant group killed dozens of Indian troops. In August, India revoked the special autonomous status of its portion of Kashmir - to the fury of Islamabad. India, which said the move was needed to spur economic development in Kashmir, in turn accuses arch-rival Pakistan funding a decades-long insurgency in the region, an assertion Islamabad denies. Many Kashmiris strongly oppose Indian rule, including some in the region's police forces, which unlike the army is predominantly staffed by local people. Earlier this month, security forces arrested Davinder Singh, a senior police officer responsible for security at the airport of the regional capital Srinagar after he was found travelling in a car with a commander of Hizbul Mujahideen. "We have got a lot of information from him," Singh said, without elaborating.
Rescuers intensified an increasingly desperate hunt Monday for four South Korean trekkers and three Nepalis swept away by an avalanche in the Himalayas as a guide told how he saw people carried off by the snow. Krishna Hari Subedi was helping a Chinese trekker on the trail near the Annapurna base camp when the wall of snow hit on Friday. "We were descending when an avalanche came rumbling down. Three people were swept down by it in front of my eyes," Subedi told AFP. "I ducked down and my guest followed, we were safe. If we had moved forward, there was a cliff edge, we would have been swept down." Subedi said he saw three people carried away but did not know how many others had been hit in the line of trekkers on the route. "When we began heading down again, we heard a cry for help," he added. "One of them survived and was walking up. It was nearly 300 metres down. When he saw us, he fainted... he was taken to a hospital." The fate of the other two remains uncertain. Soldiers have joined a team using drones and helicopters and digging in deep snow at 3,230 metres (10,600 feet) where the avalanche struck. Small helicopters were being used to drop rescuers at the site, Shanta Bir Lama, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told AFP. "The narrowness of the area makes the search difficult," explained Lama. "There is also a lot of snow. But teams today will try to remove the snow and search. Devices are also being used," he added. A nine-member army team has joined the operation while the South Korean embassy also sent an official to assist. "The snow from the avalanche is piled four to five metres deep at the site. No signs of the missing have been reported as of Monday," an official of the South's foreign ministry said. Experts say there is a very low chance of survival for those buried in an avalanche for more than two hours. Relatives of the missing Koreans who arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday have also visited the avalanche area. Six of the missing were part of the same expedition, while one Nepali porter was escorting a different group. The four foreigners -- two men and two women -- were part of an 11-member South Korean team. Others have safely descended. Education officials in Seoul said they were part of a team of volunteer teachers working with children in Nepal. Helicopters were sent out on Saturday to rescue about 200 people stranded around Annapurna and other nearby mountains after the avalanche. Annapurna is an avalanche-prone and technically difficult mountain range with a higher death rate than Everest, the world's highest peak. Thousands of trekkers visit the route every year for its stunning views of the Himalayas. A snowstorm killed about 40 people on the circuit in 2014, in one of the biggest trekking tragedies to hit Nepal.
Avalanches, heavy snow and poor visibility hampered the search yesterday for four South Koreans and three Nepalis caught in an avalanche in the popular Annapurna region of the Himalayas, officials said. Relatives of the missing Koreans have arrived in Kathmandu alongside several officials sent by Seoul to help with the emergency rescue efforts, Ang Dorjee Sherpa of the Korean Alpine Federation said. The missing group was near the Annapurna base camp around 3,230m (10,600ft) above sea level when the avalanche struck after heavy snowfall on Friday. “Our team reached the area but could not proceed with their search because of more avalanches. We are exploring ways to move the operation forward,” said Mira Acharya from Nepal’s tourism department. Rescuers were working with Korean officials to deploy drones in the search on Monday, said Dilip Gurung of the tourism management committee in Chhomrong, which lies on the trekking route. “It is difficult for people to go. We will try to fly drones to help find something,” Gurung said. Helicopters were sent out on Saturday to rescue about 200 people stranded around Annapurna and other nearby mountains after the incident. Guesthouses and the trekking route were blanketed in a thick layer of snow. “The snow was very deep and it took us more than double the time to dig through and walk,” said Jeevan Dahal, a guide who was rescued by helicopter. “We saw the avalanche-hit area from the helicopter. Everything was white.” Tek Gurung, a guesthouse owner aiding the search operation, said more than 2m of snow (6.6ft) had fallen on the trekking trails and it was “extremely difficult” to search the snow-covered area on foot. Six of the missing were part of the same expedition, while one Nepali porter was escorting a different group. The four foreigners – two men and two women – were part of an 11-member team of South Korean nationals. Others have safely descended. Education officials in Seoul said they were part of a team of volunteer teachers working with children in Nepal. Two more South Koreans were due to arrive in Nepal on Sunday to help with the search, the country’s foreign ministry said. Sherpa said it had snowed heavily around Annapurna in recent days, making the trek risky. “The weather and snow got worse and, feeling it was becoming dangerous and difficult, they decided to turn. As they were heading back the avalanche hit,” Sherpa told AFP on Saturday. Annapurna is an avalanche-prone and technically difficult mountain range with a higher death rate than Everest, the world’s highest peak. Thousands of trekkers visit the route every year for its stunning views of the Himalayas. A snowstorm killed about 40 people on the circuit in 2014, in one of the biggest trekking tragedies to hit Nepal.
Seven trekkers, including four South Koreans, went missing in Nepal's northwest Himalayan region after an avalanche hit their trail, local police and hiking officials said on Saturday. The area where the avalanche struck the group, which also included three local guides, is estimated to be about 150 km (93.21 miles) northwest of Nepali capital Kathmandu, according to the officials. The avalanche was triggered by heavy rain and snowfall, they said. ‘Four of our Korean clients, who were trekking in the Annapurna region are not in contact and are missing since an avalanche struck them on Friday,’ Sandesh Pandey, who runs the tour company which organised the hike, told Reuters. Mount Annapurna, in northwest Nepal, is the world's tenth highest mountain at 8,091 metres (26,545 feet) and its base camp is popular with thousands of trekkers who visit annually. The three Nepali guides are also not reachable, said Mira Acharya, a tourism department official in Kathmandu. Four helicopters have been deployed for the search and rescue mission with police and local volunteers also looking for the trekkers, Acharya said, adding, however, that rough weather conditions were making the operation difficult. The incident comes as the annual trekking season in Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountain peaks including Mount Everest, is drawing to a close. It could potentially dampen the mood for the Himalayan nation's tourism industry, yet to recover from a devastating earthquake which killed nearly 9,000 people in 2015 including 18 climbers and their guides at the base camp of Mount Everest. Cash-strapped Nepal earns 4% of GDP through income from tourists. About 8% of the nearly 1.1 million tourists who visited the country in 2019 went hiking or mountain climbing, according to official estimates. Separately, four rescue helicopters on Saturday evacuated nearly 200 trekkers in the Annapurna region - about 140 of them foreigners - to safer locations, police said. Their nationalities are not yet known.
Nepal on Wednesday deported 122 Chinese nationals who were arrested on suspicion of operating a large-scale cyber fraud operation in Kathmandu, officials said. Police made the arrests last month in raids on nine houses that were set up like hostels with large kitchens, bunk beds and rows of tables and chairs for working. Acting on a tip-off from Chinese authorities, more than 700 mobile phones, 331 laptops and nearly 100 desktop computers were seized along with pen drives and SIM cards. The arrests came days after over 340 Chinese nationals were detained in the Philippines in a raid on unlicensed gaming businesses. In November, almost 700 Chinese nationals were arrested in Malaysia when authorities busted a major online investment scam operation. Nepalese authorities said that the 114 men and eight women would be flown to China on Wednesday evening and that they were being deported for contravening immigration laws. "They were found to have overstayed their visas or violated terms of their tourist visas," immigration official Ram Chandra Tiwari told AFP.
Police in Nepal have detained 122 Chinese nationals in its biggest crackdown on crime by foreigners entering the country on tourist visa, officials said on Tuesday. The chief of police in the capital, Kathmandu, Uttam Subedi, said 122 Chinese men and women were rounded up in raids on Monday following information that they were engaged in suspicious activities. The Chinese are suspected of carrying out cyber crime and hacking into bank cash machines, Subedi said, adding that they were being held in different police stations and their passports and laptop computers had been seized. ‘This is the first time that so many foreigners have been detained for suspected criminal activities,’ he said. Chinese embassy officials were not immediately available for comment but another senior police officer, Hobindra Bogati, said the embassy knew of the raids and had supported the detention of the suspects. Chinese people are regularly detained in Asian countries on suspicion of involvement in various illegal activities, often involving fraud back in China. Last week, authorities in the Philippines arrested 342 Chinese workers in a raid on an unlicensed gambling operation. In September, police arrested five Chinese nationals on a charge of stealing money by hacking bank cash machines. Chinese citizens were also arrested with smuggled gold this year. Nepal and China signed a treaty on mutual assistance in criminal matters during a visit to Nepal by President Xi Jinping in October. China has been increasing its investment in Nepal in recent years in areas such as roads, power plants and hospitals. More than 134,000 Chinese tourists visited Nepal between January and October this year, up 9.2 percent from the same period in 2018, according to Nepal Tourism Board data.
Three people, including a police official, were killed when a bomb exploded in southern Nepal early Saturday. The device detonated outside a local residence after the owner called the police to report a suspicious object on his premises in Dhanusha district. "The blast occurred just as our team reached there to investigate. The owner, his son and a member of our force were killed," senior police official Pradhumna Karki told AFP. Karki said that two more members of the family and another police officer were also injured and are undergoing treatment. "We are investigating the case, no one has claimed its responsibility yet," he said. Nepal has enjoyed relative peace since the end of a decade-long civil war which concluded with a peace deal struck in 2006. In May, four people were killed and seven injured in three blasts in the capital Kathmandu, as members of an outlawed Maoist faction made a botched attempt to plant bombs around the city.
Hindu worshippers began killing thousands of buffalo Tuesday in reputedly the world's biggest animal sacrifice, held every five years in a remote corner of Nepal, despite efforts to end the bloodshed. The Gadhimai Festival kicked off in the early hours amid tight security, with the ceremonial slaughter of a goat, rat, chicken, pig and a pigeon. A local shaman then offered blood from five points of his body. Some 200 butchers with sharpened swords and knives then walked into a walled arena bigger than a football field that held several thousand buffalo as excited pilgrims climbed trees to catch a glimpse. "The sacrifices have begun today... We had tried not to support it but people have faith in the tradition and have come here with their offerings," Birendra Prasad Yadav from the festival organising committee told AFP. Thousands of worshippers from Nepal and neighbouring India have spent days sleeping out in the open and offering prayers ahead of the event in Bariyarpur village, close to the Indian border. "I believe in the goddess. My mother had asked her for the good health of my son," one of them, Rajesh Kumar Das, 30, told AFP, holding a goat in his hand. An estimated 200,000 animals ranging from goats to rats were butchered during the last two-day Gadhimai Festival in 2014, held in honour of the Hindu goddess of power. Many were hopeful the centuries-old tradition would end after the temple authorities announced a ban in 2015 and Nepal's supreme court directed the government to discourage the bloodshed a year later. But animal rights activists say both government agencies as well as temple committees have failed to implement these rulings. Indian border authorities and volunteers have in recent days seized scores of animals being brought across the frontier by unlicensed traders and pilgrims, but this has failed to stop the flow. According to legend, the first sacrifices in Bariyarpur were conducted several centuries ago when goddess Gadhimai appeared to a prisoner in a dream and asked him to establish a temple to her.
At least 18 people died after a bus skidded off a highway in Nepal and plunged into a deep gorge on Wednesday, authorities said, as rescuers scoured the steep terrain for survivors. The bus was travelling from hilly Arghakhanchi district west of Kathmandu to the southern city of Butwal when it left the road and plummeted some 350 metres (1,150 feet) to the ground. "We have recovered dead bodies of 17 passengers and the bus driver... including two infants," chief district officer Bijayraj Poudel told AFP. Twelve others were taken to hospital but it is not known whether there were more passengers aboard, Poudel said. Authorities said they were investigating the cause of the crash. Deadly traffic accidents are relatively common in the impoverished Himalayan nation because of poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving. At least 17 people, including seven children, died when a crowded bus swerved off the road and plunged into a river in central Nepal earlier this month.