FILE - In this May 27, 2019, file photo, birds fly as Mount Everest is seen from Namche Bajar, Solukhumbu district, Nepal. The closure of Mount Everest will have significant financial ramifications for the local Sherpas, cooks, porters and other personnel who make their living during this short climbing window. It also affects the clients who paid big money and expedition guides who are still on the hook for expenses. They all agree it was the right decision in light of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha, File)
KATHMANDU, March 28: Scores of tourists on the foothills of Mount Everest have been flown to safety days after being stranded on the only airstrip serving the world’s highest mountain.
Dhurba Shrestha, an official at the Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla, says that 174 foreign tourists and four Nepali nationals left the mountain by air on Saturday in 12 small planes and two helicopters.
The airport at Lukla, located at an altitude of 2,800 meters (9,184 feet), is the only airport in the Mount Everest region.
Foreign embassies and local travel agents have been urging Nepal’s government to allow these rescue flights to the Everest region since the country imposed a lockdown last week.
Nepal’s government has halted all flights and ground transportation, shutting down offices and shuttering businesses to control the spread of the coronavirus. Nepal has four confirmed cases including one person who has recovered.