Stranded Indian pilgrims to be evacuated by Nepal Army

Stranded Indian pilgrims to be evacuated by Nepal Army

Inclement weather poses a challenge

Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister, PTI file photo
Highlights: 
The pilgrims are being provided with food and lodging facilities for all the pilgrims
The stranded pilgrims included nearly 290 from Karnataka

India is in touch with Nepal to explore the possibility of deploying the military helicopters of the neighbouring country to evacuate nearly 1575 of its citizens, who were on the pilgrimage to Kailash-Mansarovar at Tibet in China but got stranded due to rain and landslides.

“We have requested Government of Nepal for army helicopters to evacuate stranded Indian nationals,” Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister, tweeted.

The pilots of Nepal Army are well experienced in flying helicopters over difficult terrain. But, with the weather continuing to be inclement, it appeared to be difficult to start evacuation by air early on Tuesday, sources in New Delhi said.

Nearly 525 and 550 Indian pilgrims are stranded at Simikot and Hilsa in Nepal, while 500 more are at Tibet Autonomous Region of China.

The stranded pilgrims included nearly 290 from Karnataka.

The Embassy of India in Kathmandu is monitoring the situation after the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims from the country got stranded along Nepalganj-Simikot-Hilsa stretch of the trekking route due to incessant rain and landslides near Nepal-China border.

The officials of New Delhi's diplomatic and consular missions weighed alternative options to evacuate people from Simikot, including through other routes like Simikot-Surkhet or Simikot-Jumla or Simikot-Mugu. The alternative routes, however, appeared to be as difficult as Simikot-Nepalganj, said a source in New Delhi.

Swaraj said that the Embassy of India in Kathmandu had already placed its representatives in Nepalganj and Simikot and they had since been personally in touch with every stranded pilgrim from the country.

The pilgrims are being provided with food and lodging facilities, added the sources.

The representative of the Embassy of India in Simikot pressed in service locally available medical practitioner to get health check-up done for all elderly pilgrims. The pilgrims are being given preventive medicines and provided with medical counselling. He is also in touch with police authorities at the check post in Hilsa. The police authorities have been requested to take care of all the pilgrims and ensure best possible assistance to them, sources said in New Delhi.

The tour operators, who arranged the pilgrimage, have been asked to try and hold pilgrims back in Tibet side of Nepal-China border as far as possible since the medical and civic facilities on the other side are inadequate. They have further been told to accord first priority in clearing up the situation at Hilsa in Nepal as it is the most infrastructure lean place in the area.

“We have set up hotlines for pilgrims and their family members who will provide information in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam languages,” tweeted Swaraj.

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