Kathmandu, July 6: Indian pilgrims returning from Kailash Mansarovar have been stranded in Nepal since Saturday. While 883 pilgrims have been evacuated from Simikot region to Nepalgunj and Surkhet during the last three days, over 500 are still caught up in the bad weather and are awaiting rescue, said the government on Thursday.

Spokesperson for the  Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Raveesh Kumar said, “The situation is fast returning to normal. We have around 50 pilgrims in Surkhet and 516 in Simikot.” The massive evacuation exercise has been undertaken by the Indian Embassy in Nepal.”At least 675 pilgrims were evacuated from Hilsa to Simikot. Fifty-three civilian flights were operated to get the pilgrims out and 142 chopper sorties were carried out,” said Kumar.

Ongoing efforts are taken to transport the stranded people to places with better facilities. Citing that a crisis situation has not been reported so far, Kumar stated, “If you see the advisory we have put up on our website, specially for pilgrims taking the Nepal route, there is always a chance that when you are passing some of these points the weather could pack up. It just happened that civilian aircraft could not operate because of adverse weather conditions.”

The MEA organises Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through Lipulekh and Nathula passes. Kumar said, “This is a yatra conducted by private tour operators. We are working through the private tour operators. They are the ones who will make arrangements for their coming back to India. As we speak, there are also pilgrims who are going up. So it is not something which has stopped,”

According to reports, altitude sickness has become a major concern for pilgrims. Earlier in the year, eight people had died of altitude sickness. In 2017, as many as 20 pilgrims died while undertaking the yatra.

Kailash Mansarovar is situated 5,950 metres above sea level. It takes three days to complete the 52 km Mansarovar circuit.

(With IANS inputs)