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Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Logo

'Over 850 pilgrims evacuated in Nepal'

ANI | Updated: Jul 05, 2018 19:15 IST

New Delhi [India], Jul 5 (ANI): The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced on Thursday that 883 Kailash Mansarovar Yatra pilgrims, who had been stranded due to inclement weather, have been evacuated from Simikhot to Surkhet and Nepalganj in the last three days.
Speaking at a regular press briefing, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "The Mission has undertaken an exercise to evacuate from Simikot and Hilsa. So far, 675 pilgrims have been evacuated from Hilsa to Simikot. 53 civilian flights operated and 142 choppers carried out the rescue operations."
"The situation is slowly coming to normal. There are 50 pilgrims in Surkhet and 516 pilgrims in Simikot. The evacuation is ongoing. If the weather holds up, we will get them out soon," he added.
In response to the humanitarian situation arising out of pilgrims being stranded in Hilsa and Simikot (both lean onboarding/lodging/medical infrastructure), the Indian mission mounted a rescue operation to evacuate all pilgrims to Nepalganj.
The mission had placed one representative each in Nepalganj and Simikot to cater to any kinds of emergency since May.
On July 2, a Mission representative conducted a head count and found that 437 pilgrims were stranded in Simikot and 250 pilgrims were stranded in Hilsa. The representatives organized a medical checkup of all elderly and ailing pilgrims to ensure their well being and established contacts with most of them to assure them that the mission was aware of the situation and would take necessary action for their rescue.
It also urged all tour operators to keep their pilgrim batches in Tibet so that the crisis is not exacerbated due to returning pilgrims. The Mission formed an eight-member multilingual control room, which catered to queries regarding the stranded pilgrims in Hindi/English/Tamil/Telugu/Kannada/Malayalam language speakers.
On July 3, owing to slight improvement in weather conditions, the Mission operated 10 fixed wing flights and two small chartered helicopters to evacuate 158 pilgrims from Simikot to Nepalganj. It also evacuated mortal remains of two pilgrims (one died in Simikot during stranding, and another died in Tibet and brought to Simikot) to Kathmandu and Nepalganj respectively.
Separately, it operated 30 sorties between Hilsa and Simikot and evacuated 150 pilgrims from Hilsa to Simikot, latter being much better equipped viz. infrastructure.
Due to mission's liaison with tour agencies, as well as Ministry's support viz. extension of Chinese visa, a large number of incoming pilgrims were retained in Tibet and only 51 pilgrims entered Hilsa from Tibet.
The Mission also dispatched a four-member team to Nepalganj for establishing camp offices in Simikot, Surkhet, and Hilsa to assist pilgrims.
On July 4, the Mission operated 17 fixed-wing flights, three Nepal Army helicopter sorties, one small helicopter sortie to evacuate 336 pilgrims from Simikot to Surkhet (owing to bad weather in Nepalganj). Further, the Mission operated 11 buses to ferry these 336 pilgrims from Surkhet to Nepalganj by road.
Separately, it operated 50 sorties between Hilsa and Simikot and evacuated 250 pilgrims from Hilsa to Simikot, latter being much better equipped viz. infrastructure.
On July 5, as the weather improved, the Mission operated 26 fixed wing flights and one Nepal Army helicopter sorties to evacuate 389 pilgrims to Surkhet/Nepalganj (owning to changing weather patterns).
Further, the Mission operated seven buses to ferry all pilgrims from Surkhet to Nepalganj by road.
The Mission has deployed a private MI-16 Helicopter on charter to pull out additional 20-25 pilgrims in one sortie. The helicopter might do two-three sorties.
Separately, it operated 55 sorties between Hilsa and Simikot and evacuated 275 pilgrims in Hilsa.
A number of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra pilgrims are stranded in parts of Nepal following a heavy downpour in the last few days.
Thousands of Indian pilgrims take part in the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra every year via Nepal in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China ahead of the monsoon season.
The tour is organised by the Ministry of External Affairs each year between June and September, in cooperation with the government of People's Republic of China through two different routes - Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand) and Nathu La Pass (Sikkim). (ANI)