Nepali families cremated eight Mount Everest sherpas yesterday as anger grew over how much compensation should be paid to victims of the single deadliest avalanche on the world’s highest mountain.

The eight bodies, out of a total of 13 recovered at the weekend, were driven through Nepal’s capital city in open trucks, their coffins draped in yellow and cream cloth, before being cremated separately.

At one ceremony below Nepal’s famous Swayambhunath religious complex, relatives wept for their loved ones as four bodies were set on fire while Buddhist monks beat drums, crashed cymbals, blew pipes and chanted prayers.

At least 13 guides were killed, three are missing and at least three others are under intensive care for broken limbs, ribs, blood clots and other injuries in Kathmandu hospitals after an avalanche swept the Khumbu Icefall, one of the most dangerous parts of the climb to Everest.

The men were trying to fix ropes and crack snow and ice to carve out a route for foreign climbers through the icefall, located not far above Everest Base Camp, when they were caught in the avalanche. The accident has re-ignited debate on the risks sherpas take and on overcrowding on Everest. The number of fatal accidents has risen in the past decades as more and more commercial expeditions – the government has issued 334 permits this season, up from 328 last year – are launched.

After meeting at the base camp of the 8,850-metre summit on Sunday, sherpas with 31 foreign expeditions demanded $10,000 in compensation for the families of victims, a doubling of insurance cover for climbs, and agreed to launch protests if their demands were not met.

The government has announced an immediate payment of €300 to the victims’ families to cover funeral costs. But there is no provision for compensation for sherpas who are hired by international expeditions to carry gear, and in the past these groups have provided financial assistance on their own in the case of accidents.

Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh, who placed marigold garlands over the eight coffins driven through Kathmandu, declined to say whether the government would meet the sherpas’ demands for greater compensation.

Besides the cash compensation, the mountain guides have demanded that the government pay for the treatment of the injured and raise the insurance cover to €15,000. “If the demands are not met, we will be forced to launch strong protests for the sake of daily bread of the entire sherpa community,” the sherpas said in a statement.

Guiding foreign climbers is the main livelihood for sherpas, helping them make up to €4,000 a year in a country with an average annual income of just over €500.

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