Nepal quakes caused 'minimal damage' to Everest trails

KATHMANDU: Most lodges and hiking trails near Mount Everest suffered only minimal damage during two big earthquakes in Nepal this year, an engineering firm said in a report that will offer some hope to a battered tourism industry.

The earthquakes struck Nepal in April and May, triggering avalanches on the world's highest mountain and killing 8,900 people across the country, including scores of foreign climbers and trekkers.

"The majority of accommodation structures and trails have sustained minimal damage," California-based engineering Miyamoto International said in a government-commissioned report.

The company said in its report, seen by Reuters on Thursday, Nepal must carry out a detailed assessment of the region after the rainy season to manage further risks to trekkers.

The government commissioned the report into the safety of the Everest and Annapurna trekking regions after Western insurance firms increased premiums for travelers after the quakes.

Critics of the report say that it failed to examine all trekking routes in the Everest region.

A spokesman for Miyamoto said on Friday it had done a rapid assessment of the main trail and it was up to the government to conduct detailed studies of other areas.

The government said it would move quickly to make the trails safe.

"It is our top priority to repair the trails. We'll relocate them wherever they cannot be repaired," Tulsi Prasad Gautam, an official in the tourism department, told reporters following publication of the report.

Nepal's tourist industry, which contributes about 4 percent to the economy, could see a 40 percent decline on last year, officials have said.

About 140,000 trekkers and climbers visit the Annapurna and Everest regions every year, about 70 percent of all hikers to the country.