The Department of Tourism of Nepal on Thursday claimed that high altitude sickness, health reasons and adverse weather led to large number of deaths on Mount Everest this year and not the large number of people on the mountain, The Himalayan Times reported.

At least 11 people have reportedly died on the world’s tallest mountain since May 16. At least five of them were Indians. The Nepali tourism ministry has maintained the death toll at eight and said one person was missing, PTI reported.

The tourism department has been facing immense criticism after reports said many deaths followed a situation akin to a “traffic jam” near the summit of the mountain. The Nepalese government was also blamed for not having a limit on the number of people who can make the climb and for issuing too many permits.

“Our attention has been drawn to the wrong information about deaths on Everest conveyed by national and international media,” said Danduraj Ghimire, the director general of Nepal’s department of tourism, adding that “traffic jam” did not cause the deaths. Ghimire said that the postmortem reports of the deceased climbers have shown that they died due to high altitude sickness, weakness or adverse weather conditions.

The tourism department also gave figures of the number of permits issued from 2017 to 2019. It said 366 expedition permits were issued in 2017, 346 permits in 2018 and 381 expedition permits were issued this year and said there was not a huge difference from previous years.

“Hence, it is untrue that congestion killed climbers on Mt Everest and we urge everyone not to be swayed by false information,” a statement from the department said. “Such false news tarnishes our image and affects our mountaineering sector,” he added. “Therefore, everyone should think twice before passing such misleading messages in international platform.”

Climbers claimed that the permit numbers have been going up steadily each year and that this year the traffic jams were heavier than ever.

More than 200 mountaineers have died on the Himalayan peak since 1922, when the first climbers’ deaths on Everest were recorded.

To reach the summit, climbers carry with them just enough canisters of compressed oxygen to make it to the top and back down. A delay of even an hour or two can mean life or death on the top. Climbers usually attempt to scale the peaks along with their guides between the months of March and May.