After quake and avalanche, Everest climber not yet ready to quit
By Douglas Busvine
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Climber Nick Cienski has not given up on his world record bid to scale six 8,000-metre peaks this calendar year, despite narrowly escaping a huge avalanche on Mount Everest on Saturday set off by an earthquake that killed thousands of people in Nepal.
The avalanche unleashed by the 7.9 magnitude quake blew tents, people and gear hundreds of feet, only just missing his team, the Canadian told Reuters on Monday by satellite telephone from base camp.
A day after helping to recover the bodies of 12 of at least 17 avalanche victims, Cienski agonised over whether to continue his quest in the poor Himalayan nation struck by a greater tragedy. More than 3,700 people have died.
"We are still sorting through a lot of emotions; 24 hours ago we were wrapping people's body parts in bags," said Cienski, speaking over the noise of helicopters evacuating climbers two-by-two from further up the world's tallest peak.
"So on the one hand the reality of that ... and on the second hand, we are climbers and this is sort of what we do.
"And so, does it make sense to continue?" said Cienski, an executive with a U.S. outdoor apparel firm.
Injured avalanche survivors were flown down the mountain on Sunday, but many of the more than 300 foreign climbers attempting to scale Everest were staying put for the time being.
Phil Crampton, expedition leader of New York-based climbing outfit Altitude Junkies, said on Sunday that many teams were hunkering down. It wasn't yet clear whether his team would pull out of base camp or press on.
Crampton was on the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) mountain a year ago when an avalanche struck the Khumbu icefalls, killing 16 sherpa mountain guides, in what was until now the worst climbing tragedy on Everest.
"I think we are all just going to wait and see what happens," he told Reuters by phone from the camp.
"I'm not familiar with any teams leaving base camp yet. I think a few teams went down the valley for a few days. They plan to return."
Last year's avalanche killed only sherpas who, unlike their foreign employers, have to run the gauntlet through the treacherous Khumbu icefalls many times to ferry equipment and supplies to advanced camps.
Fury among the sherpas caused the cancellation of last year's climbing season and led to promises of better pay for the guides, who see a relatively low share of the rewards of the high-end climbing business.
This year, the feeling at Everest base camp was that the earthquake and avalanche were indiscriminate in taking the lives of local and foreign climbers, and so the season may continue. Among those who died were three Americans and one Japanese.
Cienski is backed by a team from Russell Brice's Himalayan Experience which advertises a standard fee of $65,000 to climb Everest. Cienski said most expert sherpas had returned to their villages to see whether their families and homes were safe.
Only if they return, and are willing to press on, would Cienski continue in his Mission 14 quest (mission14.org), through which he is seeking to raise awareness against child sex trafficking.
"For me personally it's probably too early to say how I feel about that. I wouldn't want to continue if it made anybody uncomfortable to continue - sherpas included in that," he said.
Cienski, who first came to the Himalayas as a 21-year-old in 1987, plans to climb Everest, Lhotse and Makalu this spring, followed by Cho Oyo, Shishapangma and Manaslu later in the year in his 6 Summits Challenge (6summitschallenge.org).
"If this is going to happen, it needs to happen quickly," said Cienski, who will climb with separate teams and be flown on from one summit to the next base camp.
"We are sitting on needles and pins a little here."
(Additional reporting by Neha Dasgupta and Clara Ferreira Marques in Mumbai; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Mike Collett-White)
Mylan rejects Teva offer, but leaves door open
(Reuters) - Mylan NV rejected Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd's unsolicited $40 billion (£26.4 billion) takeover offer on Monday, but left the door open for talks.
"Our board will certainly not consider engaging in discussions to sell the company unless the starting point of the discussions is significantly in excess of $100 per share," Mylan said.
Mylan shares fell 4 percent to $73.09 in early trading, while Teva's slipped about 3 percent to $24.65.
Teva, the world's biggest maker of generic drugs, has offered $82 per share in cash and stock for Mylan.
However, Mylan said a combination with Teva would expose it to a "problematic culture and leadership with poor record of delivering shareholder value."
Mylan also said it remained committed to its offer for Perrigo Co Plc.
Last week, Mylan said it would take its $31 billion offer for Perrigo directly to shareholders, in what is set to be one of the most high-profile hostile takeover attempts of the year.
Mylan's pursuit of Perrigo, a major producer of over-the-counter drugs, is widely seen as an attempt to fend off Teva.
(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)
Nepal scrambles to organise quake relief, many flee capital
By Gopal Sharma, Rupam Jain Nair and Ross Adkin
KATHMANDU, Nepal (Reuters) - Nepalese officials scrambled on Monday to get aid from the main airport to people left homeless and hungry by a devastating earthquake two days earlier, while thousands tired of waiting fled the capital Kathmandu for the surrounding plains.
By afternoon, the death toll from Saturday's 7.9 magnitude earthquake had climbed to more than 3,700, and reports trickling in from remote areas suggested it would rise significantly.
A senior interior ministry official said it could rise to as high as 5,000, in the worse such disaster in Nepal since 1934, when 8,500 people were killed.
Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport was hobbled by many employees not showing up for work, people trying to get out, and a series of aftershocks which forced it to close several times since the quake.
Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam was supervising aid delivery and arranging for passengers to leave the country.
Government officials said they needed more supplies of food, medicines, specialised rescue services and body bags.
"The morgues are getting totally full," said Shankar Koirala, an official in the Prime Minister's Office who is dealing with the disposal of bodies.
FLIGHT FROM KATHMANDU
Many of Kathmandu's one million residents have slept in the open since Saturday, either because their homes were flattened or they were terrified that aftershocks would bring them crashing down.
On Monday, thousands streamed out of the city. Roads leading from Kathmandu were jammed with people, some carrying babies, trying to climb onto buses or hitch rides aboard cars and trucks to the plains. Huge queues had formed at the airport.
"We are escaping," said Krishna Muktari, who runs a small grocery store in Kathmandu, standing at a road intersection.
Meanwhile, the extent of Nepal's disaster was only just emerging as reports of devastation began to come in from other parts of the country.
High in the Himalayas, hundreds of climbers were staying put at Mount Everest base camp, where a huge avalanche after the earthquake killed 17 people in the single worst disaster to hit the world's highest mountain.
Rescue teams, helped by clear weather, used helicopters to airlift scores of people stranded at higher altitudes, two at a time.
In Sindhupalchowk, about a three-hour drive northeast of Kathmandu, the death toll had reached 875 people and was expected to rise. In Dhading, close to the quake's epicentre west of Kathmandu, 241 people were killed.
Survivors spoke of trying to stay flat on the ground while the tremors shook the forested mountains. Some were stuck for hours afterwards, unable to move because of injuries.
"There is nobody helping people in the villages. People are dying where they are," said A. B. Gurung, a Nepali soldier who was waiting in Dhading district for an Indian helicopter that had gone to his village Darkha.
AID TRICKLES IN
In Kathmandu, sick and wounded people were lying out in the open, unable to find beds in the devastated city's hospitals. Surgeons set up an operating theatre inside a tent in the grounds of Kathmandu Medical College.
Across the capital and beyond, exhausted families laid mattresses out on streets and erected tents to shelter from rain. People queued for water dispensed from trucks, while the few stores still open had next to nothing on their shelves.
Some relief supplies began to trickle into the capital, a Reuters witness said. Some portable toilets had been set up and food was being provided by local aid agencies.
A few United Nations vehicles were seen with medical equipment and first aid kits.
The United Nations Children's Fund said nearly one million children in Nepal were severely affected by the quake, and warned of waterborne and infectious diseases.
In the ancient temple town of Bhaktapur, east of Kathmandu, many residents were living in tents in a school compound after centuries old buildings collapsed or developed huge cracks.
"We have become refugees," said Sarga Dhaoubadel, a management student whose ancestors had built her Bhaktapur family home over 400 years ago.
They were subsisting on instant noodles and fruit, she said.
"No one from the government has come to offer us even a glass of water," she said. "Nobody has come to even check our health. We are totally on our own here. All we can hope is that the aftershocks stop and we can try and get back home."
A total of 3,726 people were confirmed killed in the quake, the government said on Monday. More than 6,500 were injured.
Another 66 were killed across the border in India and at least another 20 in Tibet, China's state news agency said.
Several countries rushed to send aid and personnel.
India sent helicopters, medical supplies and members of its National Disaster Response Force. China sent a 60-strong emergency team. Pakistan's army said it was sending four C-130 aircraft with a 30-bed hospital, search and rescue teams and relief supplies.
A Pentagon spokesman said a U.S. military aircraft with 70 personnel left the United States on Sunday and was due in Kathmandu on Monday. Australia, Britain and New Zealand said they were sending specialist urban search-and-rescue teams to Kathmandu at Nepal's request.
Britain, which believes several hundred of its nationals are in Nepal, was also delivering supplies and medics.
The disaster has underlined the woeful state of Nepal's medical facilities.
Nepal has only 2.1 physicians and 50 hospital beds for every 10,000 people, according to a 2011 World Health Organization report.
(Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani and Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu, Frank Jack Daniel, Mayank Bhardwaj, Krista Mahr, Amit Ganguly and Nidhi Verma in New Delhi; Neha Dasgupta and Clara Ferreira-Marques in Mumbai and Norihiko Shirouzo in Beijing; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Paritosh Bansal; Editing by Mike Collett-White)
New quake felt in northeast India, strength 5.1 - USGS
PATNA, India (Reuters) - Tremors shook northeast India on Monday, three days after a severe earthquake caused devastation in neighbouring Nepal, sending residents rushing out of their homes fearing for their safety.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was centred in the Indian state of West Bengal and had a magnitude of 5.1, less severe than Saturday's 7.9 quake in Nepal that has been followed by dozens of aftershocks.
"It was just now, Everything was shaking. People began to come out of their homes," a Reuters reporter in the north Indian city of Patna said.
(Reporting by Manoj Chaurasia and Clara Ferreira Marques; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Malini Menon)
Half of world's rural populations cannot access health care: UN
More than half the population of rural areas worldwide do not have access to basic health care, with four in five rural Africans lacking services, the United Nations said Monday.
In the first report of its kind, the UN's International Labour Organization found that the rural-urban divide was omnipresent from the richest countries down to the poorest.
Fifty-six percent of those living in rural areas worldwide were not covered by basic health care against 22 percent in cities and towns, according to the report, with data from 174 countries.
"The results that we found are really shocking. We find that the rural-urban divide is a consistent feature at global, regional and national levels," the report's author Xelia Scheil-Adlung, told a news conference.
"The place of residence can be considered as the entry door to access to health care or as the key barrier to be excluded from health care," she said.
An overwhelming 83 percent of Africans in rural areas were left uncovered, the report said.
"The situation is worsened by the lack of health workers in the world's rural areas," the report said, adding that although half of the world's population lived in these areas, only 23 percent of the global health workforce was deployed there.
An extra seven million health workers were needed to make up for the shortfall in rural areas across the world, the report on iniquities in rural health protection said.
Scheil-Adlung, who is ILO's health policy coordinator, said the countries with the highest rural-urban divide in Europe were Italy, followed by Greece, Andorra and Cyprus.
The lowest gap was in Monaco, a tiny principality in southern France which is a tax haven for the world's rich and famous, followed by Switzerland, she said.
The biggest divide globally was found in East Timor.
In the impoverished half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, 75 percent of the rural population remains outside the purview of medical care, against 18 percent in cities.
The main reasons for this were underfunding, negligence and investments in "prestige" projects in urban areas, said Scheil-Adlung.
She said this could be rectified with steps to ensure comprehensive national protection, moving away from depending on charities to meet the shortfall and revamping policies and budgets.
"We have to ensure that everybody is included in legislation and people are just not waiting for Bill Gates to come and give some money," she said.
"Investing in rural health, as part of a national health system, is affordable and yields significant economic and social returns," said Isabel Ortiz, the head of ILO's social protection department.