Amarnath: 15 Indian pilgrims dead, 40 missing after cloudburst near holy cave shrine

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Flash floods triggered by a cloudburst near the base camp of the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in the federal territory of Kashmir on Friday killed 16 pilgrims while more than 40 others are feared missing, according to the officials.

“Sixteen people have been confirmed dead. About 40 still seem to be missing. No landslide have been reported, but there is continuous rain continues, though it is not hampering rescue work. Four NDRF teams with over 100 rescuers in rescue work,” National Disaster Response Force director general Atul Karwal was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

The annual pilgrimage, also known as the Amarnath yatra (journey) began on 30 June and was to last 43 days. The pilgrimage was being held after two years following the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has asked all officials in the Ramban district to remain on high alert.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish at the deaths and took stock of the situation.

“Anguished by the cloud burst near Shree Amarnath cave. Condolences to the bereaved families. Spoke to @manojsinha_ Ji and took stock of the situation. Rescue and relief operations are underway. All possible assistance is being provided to the affected,” he tweeted. Manoj Sinha is the lieutenant governor of Jammu & Kashmir.

Indian Air Force, which rescued 21 survivors, has pressed its transport and helicopter assets into service for relief operations, ANI reported.

More than 60 people were injured in the flashflood triggered by the cloudburst, according to officials, adding that over 15000 others have been rescued.

This year over 65,000 pilgrims have already performed the perilous trek by foot or on pony in the Himalayas to the cave shrine situated around 3,900 metres above the sea level. In the event of the flashflood, the pilgrimage has been suspended from both Baltal and Pahalgam base camps.

A decision on its resumption will be taken after rescue operations get over, News18 news outlet quoted administration officials as saying.

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