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Kailash Mansarovar yatra: Bad weather hampers efforts to evacuate Indians

More than 1,200 pilgrims were still stranded at Simikot and Hilsa in Nepal and in Tibet, and Indian officials have sought help from the Nepal Army to airlift them.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2018 23:50 IST
Anil Giri
Anil Giri
Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims,Kailash Mansarovar yatra,Indian pilgrims
Indian pilgrims being evacuated from Simikot to Surkhet and Nepalganj, as authorities stepped up efforts to rescue those stranded there due to heavy rain while returning from the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage.(PTI Photo)

Inclement weather in Nepal continued to hamper efforts to evacuate Indian nationals stranded while returning from the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra, with officials saying some 200 pilgrims were moved to safer places on Wednesday.

More than 1,200 pilgrims were still stranded at Simikot and Hilsa in Nepal and in Tibet, and Indian officials have sought help from the Nepal Army to airlift them.

Officials of the Indian embassy in Kathmandu said there were 643 pilgrims in Simikot and 350 more in Hilsa. Nepal’s tourism ministry said some 300 pilgrims were waiting to be evacuated from Tibet.

The number of pilgrims at Hilsa, where basic infrastructure is inadequate, had been considerably reduced as helicopters flew 50 sorties to evacuate them.

Five commercial flights also evacuated pilgrims from Simikot to Surkhet, and the Indian embassy arranged buses to transport people from Surkhet to Nepalgunj, located close to the Indian border.

The officials of the Indian embassy also said there were no reports of fresh casualties. The pilgrims in Simikot, Hilsa and Tibet – all located at an altitude of about 3,000 metres – had adequate food, medicine and shelter, they said.

The deadline for evacuating the pilgrims had been changed in view of the poor weather conditions, said an Indian official overseeing the rescue efforts. “If the weather permits frequent flights, we will able to relocate them from the highlands of Simikot, Hilsa and Tibet to safe places like Nepalgunj and Surkhet near the border with India,” the official said.

The embassy is exploring the possibility of hiring chartered helicopters on several routes to expedite the evacuation process. Nepali Summit, Sita and Tara Airlines are operating 10 to 12 flights a day to evacuate pilgrims from Humla to Nepalgunj, but their small aircraft can accommodate only up to 14 people.

“The embassy continues to monitor the situation in Nepalganj-Simikot-Hilsa sector and is taking all possible measures to evacuate all stranded Indian nationals and Indian-origin people from the area,” a statement from the mission said.

Nearly 1,600 Indian pilgrims were stranded at three locations in Nepal and Tibet following heavy rainfall at the beginning of the week. At least two Indian pilgrims died, including one in Nepal and another in Tibet.

First Published: Jul 04, 2018 23:50 IST