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<-Back to WTN Archives Five Children Die in Tibet Escape Attempts
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World Tibet Network News

Wednesday, January 14, 1998



1. Five Children Die in Tibet Escape Attempts


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TIN News Update / 14 January, 1998 / total no of pages: 2 ISSN 1355-3313

Six Tibetans, five of them children, died in attempts to escape from
Tibet last month after severe snowstorms hit the Himalayan passes,
according to survivors who reached Kathmandu.

Five of the deaths occurred after a three day storm near Mount Everest
in early December, trapping at least one group of refugees near the top
of the Nangpa-la, the 5,700 metre pass used by most Tibetans trying to
escape to Nepal. A sixth death occurred on 24th December when a second
group had to walk through waist high snow to reach Nepal.

The first group, which consisted of 22 Tibetans, six of them children
and seven of them women, had already crossed the Nangpa-la pass, about
100 km west of Everest, but were still high in the mountains when they
were caught in the storm on 3rd December.

The group was unable to move during the three days of the storm and on
day four began walking through the snow, by then over a metre deep, and
chest high in places, according to survivors.

On 9th December, after walking for one and a half days, Ka-lo, an 10
year old boy, and a girl of the same age called Shilok died from hunger
and exposure. Shilok's older sister, Phurbu Drolma, aged 11, also died.
The bodies of the children were covered with blankets and left in the
mountain.

On 10th December, three days after walking down from the pass, the group
reached a small Nepalese village, but it was too late to save a fourth
child, an 11 year old girl called Drolma, who died at about 1.30 that
afternoon.

The children were being sent to Nepal in order to join schools run by the
exile Tibetan government in India, and many of the older members of the
group were hoping to join monasteries or nunneries in India. Between 400 and
500 children under 14 are sent illegally from Tibet each year to join the
exile schools.

A 16 year old monk from Kandze in eastern Tibet who was in the group also
died shortly after crossing the mountain into Nepal. The monk, Sonam Tashi,
died on 25th December while other members of the group were carrying him
from the village of Khari-khola, 20 km south of Namche Bazaar, to a local
hospital. One report said he had died because of exposure, but another
source said the death may have been caused by acute appendicitis. His body
was cremated at Nanthala, the village where he died.

The remaining members of the group were given assistance by two British
tourists who were trekking in the region. "While we were having tea in a
restaurant a Tibetan girl came and sat next to us," said one of the
tourists, who asked not to be named. "She took off her shoes and showed us
her feet, which were badly frost bitten. When the others arrived we saw that
some were in a worse condition than her," he added.

The couple, both from Edinburgh in Scotland, hired four porters to carry the
girl, a 23 year old nun, to the hospital at Khunde, established by the
mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary near Namche Bazaar, 140 km north east of
Kathmandu.

One of the tourists carried an 11 year old child, the youngest in the group
to have survived, to the hospital about half a days' walk away, and then
trekked after the rest of the group to help them contact local police, who
arranged for horses to carry them to a nearby refugee camp and later flew
them to Kathmandu, where the refugees arrived on 29th December.

The surviving members of the group were given treatment for frostbite in
Kathmandu, and on 1st January one of the group, a 22 year old man called
Taga from eastern Tibet, had both his legs amputated just below the knee, in
a case described by one specialist as "the worst I have ever seen".

Two men from the group in their twenties have already had their toes
amputated on one or both feet, and three others are expected to lose toes or
part of their feet. The refugees had been wearing thick clothes but, like
most of the refugees, had only light footwear or running shoes.

- 2 year old Child Dies, 21st December -

A sixth death was reported by a group who reached the first settlements in
the Nubri area of Nepal, 130 km north-west of Kathmandu, on 24th December.
The group, which consisted of 26 Tibetans, was given shelter by locals in
the village, but said that a 2 year old child had died from the cold three
days earlier, just after they had crossed the pass, when they had been
walking through waist high snow.

"On the morning of 25th December two Tibetans came to the house where we
were staying and asked for medicine for frostbite," said Hyoung Woo Kim, a
29 year old mountaineer from Korea who was in the village after completing
an attempt on Mount Manaslu, an 8100 metre peak. "We went to see the group,
and one man and two of the women had frostbitten feet and toes", he said.

The Koreans and a local Sherpa arranged for the three frostbite cases and
two others to be flown with them by helicopter to Kathmandu, after one
member of the team offered to give up his place and to arrange for the
team's equipment and supplies to be offloaded from the helicopter and
carried instead by foot to Kathmandu.

Tashi Tsomo, a 14 year old girl from Eastern Tibet who was among those flown
to Kathmandu, is expected to lose all the toes on her right foot, and a boy
from the same area will lose some of his toes, according to reports from the
city.

The rest of the group arrived in Kathmandu, where the UN arranges safe
passage for refugees to join the exile Tibetan community in India, on 2nd
January. "What else could we do but help them?" said Mr Kim, one of the
Korean tourists. "They look like us Koreans, we share the same ancestors,
and we were all very worried about them," he said.

Mr Kim praised local Sherpas for going out of their way to help the
refugees, and the British tourists also described the local police in Khari-
Khola as conscientious and helpful.

The police in Kathmandu hand over Tibetan refugees to the local office of
the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which allows those whom it
considers to be genuine cases of concern to travel on to India. There are
frequent reports of refugees being harassed or having to pay bribes to
police in border areas, and in one case last November eleven Tibetans were
repatriated by Nepalese border guards after they refused to pay a bribe of
20,000 rupees (c.US $3,200). However, an increasing number of recent reports
describe some Nepali police as co-operative.

Over 2,200 Tibetan refugees arrived in Nepal last year, nearly half of them
in the last three months. About 500 of the arrivals last year were children
under 14 sent from Tibet to join exile government schools or monasteries in
India; about 1,000 were monks or nuns. The number of escapees increases in
the winter months after the harvest is completed, apparently because there
are less guards on the borders during the winter months.


Articles in this Issue:
  1. Five Children Die in Tibet Escape Attempts
  2. Earthquake jolts Tibet -Xinhua (Reuters)
  3. Quake rocks remote Tibet
  4. Announcement: New "Legal Materials on Tibet"



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