SOLUKHUMBU, JUN 04 – Though it is more than two years since 29-year-old British national Zisimos Souflas went missing from Namche Bazaar, his whereabouts still remains a mystery.
Police personnel, locals and Souflas’ relatives carried out a massive search operation but the effort went in vain.
Souflas, who had gone on a solo trek after attending the wedding of his friend Siddhartha Thapa-grandson of former Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa in Kathmandu-went missing from Namche Bazaar where he is said to have stayed at Hotel Tibet.
His relatives regularly visit Nepal with hopes to trace his whereabouts, chances of finding him alive have become very slim, authorities say.
In another similar instance, Slovakian citizen Thomas Princzkel has been missing for the past one and a half months in the Everest region. Thomas, who was on his third visit to Nepal as part of a bike ride around the world, was last seen in Dingboche on April 21. Helicopters were used to search for him several times and his relatives have even declared a cash prize of Rs 50,000 in return for information about him. Thomas, however, is yet to be traced.
These two cases are among those who are reported to police as missing foreign nationals. Locals, however, say the number of foreigners missing the area could much higher than the cases reported to police. One can see names of such missing foreigners etched in stones, boundary and house walls on the way to the Everest base camp from Jubhing.
Lamakaji Sherpa, secretary at the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, said such cases could be prevented if the government made it mandatory for solo-trekkers to take at least a guide or porter who can support them during difficulties.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Badri Bikram Thapa said the problem was created due to various factors, including altitude sickness, entrapment in crevasses and the tendency of foreigners with little or no knowledge about the terrain to wander about without a guide.
Local stakeholders said the problem persists as rescue operations depend solely on helicopters which are not always available in standby mode. Carrying out manual rescue operations remains out of the question due to the difficult terrain in the region.
Meanwhile, Yangzing Sherpa, a local hotel entrepreneur, said the increasing cases of missing foreigners have adversely affected business activities in the area.
He said the government should implement an effective mechanism to deal with the cases of missing foreign tourists and depute trained security personnel for rescue works.