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2 pilgrims dead, over 1,500 stranded along Kailash Mansarovar route; India SEEKS Nepal’s help

Two Indian pilgrims died among those undertaking the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage while over 1,500 others were stranded due to bad weather conditions along the Simikot-Hilsa route, media reports said.

Nepal Police said two Indian pilgrims — Narayanam Leela of Kerala and Satya Laxmi of Andhra Pradesh — died.

Leela died suddenly at his hotel as he returned after visiting Mansarovar, while Laxmi died in Taklakot, Rabin Shrestha, a senior police official in Humla district was quoted as saying by Kathmandu Post.

India has requested Kathmandu for help in evacuating them and officials said over 100 pilgrims from India were evacuated from Nepal’s Simikot region and rescue work has been intensified to bring back all those stuck along the route to Kailash Mansarovar in China’s Tibetan region.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office said he was in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs as well as other officials concerned and issued instructions to extend all possible assistance to the stranded Indians.

In a series of tweets, external affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said about 525 pilgrims are stranded in Simikot, 550 in Hilsa and another 500 are stuck in the Tibet side, adding that India has requested the Nepal government for army helicopters to evacuate them.

“So far 104 pilgrims have been rescued from the site. Seven commercial flights have so far been operated for the rescue works,” an Indian Embassy official told news agency PTI. The evacuated pilgrims were taken to Nepalganj, bordering India.

The pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibetan region of China is considered holy by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Every year, hundreds of Indians undertake the ‘yatra’ which involves trekking under inhospitable conditions.

Swaraj said India has set up hotlines for pilgrims and their family members who will be provided information in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam languages.

“Indian Embassy in Nepal has deployed representatives in Nepalganj and Simikot. They are in touch with the pilgrims and ensuring that food and lodging facilities are available to all the pilgrims,” she said.

In Simikot, the minister said, a health check-up has been carried out on all the elderly pilgrims and they are being provided required medical help

“In Hilsa, we have requested police authorities for necessary assistance,” she said.

The Indian Embassy in Nepal has asked all tour operators to try and hold pilgrims back in Tibet side as far as possible since the medical and civic facilities on Nepal side are inadequate.

The mission is also looking at various alternatives to evacuate the stranded people from Simikot, including through alternative routes via Simikot-Surkhet, Simikot-Jumla and Simikot-Mugu.

(With Inputs from PTI)