Two Indian pilgrims undertaking the Kailash Mansarovar yatra died while over 1,500 others are stranded in mountainous regions of Nepal due to inclement weather and India has requested Kathmandu for help in evacuating them.
Indian officials said nearly 150 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 India has requested the Nepal government for army helicopters to evacuate them.
Sources in New Delhi said the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, in liaison with local airport authorities, operated nine commercial flights in which 158 pilgrims were evacuated from Simikot to Nepalganj bordering India.
They said the mission is already in touch with Nepal Army, which has kept a helicopter in state of readiness to airlift stranded Indian as and when weather improves.
Nepal Police said two Indian pilgrims - Leela Narayanan Mandredath, 56, of Kerela and Satya Laxmi of Andra Pradesh - died.
Mandredath died in Simikot yesterday possibly due to high altitude sickness while Laxmi succumbed to a heart attack in Tibet, the official sources said.
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, in a statement, said it is looking at various alternatives to evacuate the stranded people from Simikot, including through separate routes.
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.