Nepal jeep plunge kills 14 pilgrims: police

At least 14 pilgrims were killed when a jeep carrying them to a sacred Hindu site in southern Nepal swerved off a highway and fell 100 metres (330 feet) into a stream below, police said on Saturday.

The jeep was taking the devotees to Ridi, a pilgrimage town in Palpa district, 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of Kathmandu, late Friday when the driver lost control, Nepal Police spokesman Rajendra Singh Bhandari told AFP.

"Locals came to know about the accident in the morning and informed the police. The death toll is likely to rise as the police rescue team is searching for bodies," he said.

Ridi, which lies at the confluence of the Ridi Khola and Kali Gandaki rivers, is visited by thousands of Hindus who bathe, worship at temples and cremate their dead.

District police inspector Purshotam Pandey said the pilgrims, from nearby Gulmi district, were carrying the remains of a relative to place them in the waters when their jeep crashed at the village of Deurali.

"The hilly road is little bit difficult and has lots of turns at the place where the accident occurred. We suspect that the jeep suffered brake failure," he said.

July marks the beginning of the monsoon season in Nepal, when rivers which have become parched in the first half of the year begin to swell up again, posing a greater threat to vehicles which lose control.

Accidents are relatively common on the impoverished Himalayan country's highways because of poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

Two weeks ago 38 Indian pilgrims were killed when their overcrowded bus lost control and plunged into a river as they were travelling to a temple in neighbouring Nawalparasi district.

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