Nearly 200 Indian pilgrims were evacuated from Nepal's mountainous Hilsa region today, as authorities stepped up efforts to rescue those stranded there due to heavy rain while returning from the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage in Tibet.
Another 119 people were moved from Simikot to Surkhet, the Indian Embassy here said in a statement.
The Indian mission was monitoring the situation in the Nepalganj-Simikot-Hilsa sector and taking all possible measures to evacuate all stranded Indian nationals and Indian-origin people from the area.
"On the Hilsa-Simikot sector, helicopters made 35 sorties evacuating close to 200 people from Hilsa to Simikot," the embassy said.
"With a view to expediting the evacuation process, the embassy is also exploring the possibility of hiring chartered helicopters and operating them on various evacuation routes subject to weather condition and willingness/ability of carrier to ply on these routes," it said.
While Hilsa is extremely infrastructure lean, Simikot has decent boarding, communication and medical facilities.
"Today, five commercial flights and three Nepal Army chopper made sorties evacuating 119 people from Simikot to Surkhet. The Embassy has also arranged buses for transportation of the people from Surkhet to Nepalganj," the embassy said.
It said the pilgrims were moved to Surkhet as the weather in Nepalgunj was bad.
Yesterday, around 250 of the over 1,500 Indian pilgrims stranded were evacuated and taken to safety from Hilsa near Tibet border, the embassy had said.
A total of 158 people were evacuated yesterday from Simikot to Nepalganj, a fairly big city with all modern facilities and three hours road connectivity to Lucknow, it had said.
The embassy has already set up a hotline for pilgrims and their family members, which also comprises other language speaking staff for Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam speakers.
Two pilgrims -- Leela Narayanan Mandredath, 56, of Kerala and Satya Laxmi of Andhra Pradesh -- died on Monday due to high altitude sickness in Simikot and heart attack in Tibet respectively, the Indian Embassy had said.
Their bodies were brought by special helicopters to Kathmandu and Nepalganj respectively, it said in a statement.
Tenzin Norbu Lama, the managing director of Sunny Travels and Treks, one of the major tour operators handling the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, said Indian pilgrims were stranded as the air transport links were cut off due to bad weather but there were no problems in food and accommodation.
"However, mountain areas lack proper medical facilities in the event of pilgrims suffering from altitude sickness due to their prolonged stay in the region," Lama was quotes as saying by the local media.
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.