Amarnath Yatra suspended, advisory to Kailash – Mansarovar yatris

NEW DELHI/KATHMANDU
5 Jul 2018

Even as the Amarnath yatra remained suspended for the second consecutive day on Wednesday from Both Pahalgam and Baltal routes due to landslides and shooting stones, the External Affairs Ministry issued an advisory for pilgrims planning to undertake the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through Nepal, saying there were "high chances" of getting stranded in various legs of the journey in case of inclement weather.
"Yatra via both Baltal as well as Pahalgam routes remained suspended for the second day due of landslides and shooting stones at several places and intermittent rains in the Yatra area," a spokesman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) said.
He said, however, limited helicopter services functioned from both routes.
Three pilgrims died and four other persons suffered injuries when they came under a landslide between Brarimarg and Railpathri on Baltal route on Tuesday night while two pilgrims were killed by shooting stones over the past two days.
Six other persons have died due to cardiac arrest since the pilgrimage to the 3880 metre high cave shrine began on June 28.
The advisory comes in the wake of the recent inclement weather along the Nepalganj-Simikot-Hilsa route of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through Nepal, and the consequent stranding of pilgrims for over a week.
The advisory said the prospective pilgrims should note that Simikot and Hilsa in Nepal are connected to rest of the world only by air through small aircraft and helicopters.
These small aircraft and helicopters can operate only when the weather is absolutely clear in these places and their adjoining areas, as the terrain and the route is extremely dangerous, the advisory said.
In case of poor weather, there are high chances of pilgrims getting stranded in various legs of the yatra, it said.
Noting that Simikot and Hilsa are extremely infrastructure lean places lacking medical facilities and comfortable boarding and lodging, the advisory said pilgrims should get themselves medically examined before starting the yatra and carry medicines for up to a month.
It also asked all prospective pilgrims, state governments and tour agencies to apprise themselves with the ministry's advisory issued in April and implement it in letter and spirit.
In the April advisory, the ministry had said that Indians travelling for the yatra through Nepal should ensure that they have appropriate Chinese visa and travel permit for Tibet in hand before commencing their journey.
It had said the pilgrims should note that they would be traversing Simikot and Hilsa on their way and both these places have inadequate tourist and medical infrastructure, and are prone to inclement weather due to which to-and-fro flights get disrupted.
Scores of Indian pilgrims were evacuated from Nepal's mountainous Hilsa region yesterday, as authorities stepped up efforts to rescue those stranded there due to heavy rain while returning from the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage in Tibet.
Meanwhile, the ordeal of the stranded Indian pilgrims returning from Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet is still not over as nearly 1,000 of them continue to await their evacuation at Nepal's mountainous regions amidst inclement weather, according to Indian embassy in Nepal.
Over 250 Indian pilgrims were evacuated from Hilsa on Wednesday, as authorities stepped up efforts to rescue those stranded there due to heavy rain while returning from the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage.
"As on 5 July morning 10 commercial flights operated taking 143 pilgrims from Simikot to Nepalgunj," the Indian embassy in Nepal said in a tweet.
"According to the Embassy of India's official headcount, there are 643 people stranded in Simikot and 350 stranded in Hilsa. No casualty reported. It may be mentioned that the number of stranded pilgrims in resource lean Hilsa has been drastically brought down," the embassy tweeted.
According to the District Police Office, hundreds of people are still at Simikot awaiting their flights.
Inclement weather had disrupted the flights to and from the district until Monday, 'The Kathmandu Post' reported.
Altitude sickness has become a major concern for those still waiting for their flights. Eight pilgrims have already died of altitude-related illness this year, the report said.
Indian embassy in Nepal on Thursday issued a revised advisory for the prospective pilgrims.
"Simikot and Hilsa in Nepal are extremely infrastructure lean places lacking basic medical, comfortable boarding and lodging facilities. Prospective pilgrims should get themselves medically examined before starting the Yatra as well as carry sufficient medicine for up to one month," it said.
"Simikot and Hilsa are connected to rest of the world only by air. There is no other way of travelling in and out of these two places. These small aircrafts/helicopters can only operate subject to suitable weather conditions in these places and their adjoining areas, as the terrain and route is extremely dangerous," it added.
The embassy has set up a hotline for pilgrims and their family members, which also comprises other language speaking staff for Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam speakers.
The pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar in the Tibet 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.