KATHMANDU Aug 4 More than 500 foreign tourists
and their guides have been rescued after a deadly landslide in
Nepal blocked a major highway, leaving them stranded in a border
town over the weekend, Nepali hiking officials said on Monday.
The mostly Indian and European tourists were returning to
Kathmandu after hiking expeditions in Tibet when heavy rains
triggered the landslide, blocking the Arniko highway to the
capital and forcing them to take refuge in Tatopani town on the
Officials said more than 400 hikers and their guides were
picked up by helicopters and brought to Kathmandu on Sunday and
another 200 people were evacuated on Monday.
"The trekkers were worried and confused. But now they are
very much relieved and comfortable," Airlines Operators
Association official Yog Raj Kandel told Reuters.
This is peak trekking season in Tibet, with thousands of
tourists annually visiting the Himalayan region from Nepal.
Aid and tourism-dependent Nepal, home to Mount Everest and
eight of the 14 highest mountains above 8,000 metres (26,246
feet), is one of the world's poorest countries. Four percent of
the country's gross domestic product (GDP) comes from tourism.
The landslide, which occurred on Saturday morning in Nepal's
Sindhupalchowk district, has left a trail of destruction. At
least 33 people have died and more than 130 people are missing.
The disaster has also sparked fears of flash floods
downstream - including in neighbouring India - as it has blocked
the Sunkoshi river, forming an artificial lake.
Indian authorities fear that as Nepal tries to clear the
landslide, it will unleash a torrent of water, submerging
hundreds of villages. As a result, more than 400,000 people in
the eastern state of Bihar have been evacuated.
(Editing by Nita Bhalla and Malini Menon)