By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal has extended the climbing permits of hundreds of foreigners forced to abandon the Himalayas after last year's twin earthquakes, the government said on Tuesday, to encourage them to return to the mountains.
At least 19 climbers were killed when huge blocks of ice buried their tents at the base camp of the 8,850-metre (29,035 feet) Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain.
More than 800 foreign climbers, each paying up to $11,000 for their permits, canceled their expeditions after the April quake triggered landslides and massive avalanches across the Himalayas.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Ananda Prasad Pokharel said climbers would be able to climb on the same permit this year and in 2017, as Nepal struggles to revive tourism that contributes four percent to GDP.
“They had already paid the money as royalty to climb but could not complete their mission due to the earthquake,” Pokharel said.
The climbing season starts later this month but hiking officials say foreign bookings have dropped sharply. Nepal's infrastructure was badly hit in the quakes and a prolonged transport blockade along the border with India over a political dispute has further hit supplies of fuel and equipment.
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)