40 missing, rescue underway, yatra suspended till further orders
Anantnag: At least 13 pilgrims have died and more than 40 others are missing after a cloud burst hit the Baltal base camp of the ongoing Amarnath Yatra, and caused flash floods in the area that washed away dozens of tents.
Identities of the deceased pilgrims were yet to be ascertained when this report was filed. The Yatra has been suspended till further notice.
Police said that eight bodies have so far been retrieved from the site of the cloudburst. “Injured people have been shifted for treatment, and rescue operations are going on,” a police spokesperson said.
The exact number of injured in the mishap was yet to be known when this report was filed.
The death toll is expected to rise, even as the rescue operations have been joined by the police, the National Disaster Relief Force, the State Disaster Relief Force, the army, ITBP, and some other agencies.
The cloudburst, as per official sources that Kashmir Reader talked to, occurred at about 5:30 PM and immediately caused flash floods in the area. “Dozens of tents, langars, along with the people occupying them have been washed away in the flash floods,” a senior official of the UT administration said.
He said that two bodies were retrieved initially and the death toll has kept rising since. “From two to five and then ten, and now thirteen,” the official said, adding that rescue operations have been intensified to rescue others. “Five people have so far been rescued, but the worrisome fact is that over three dozen still remain missing.”
Meanwhile, helplines have been established and numbers of the NDRF, Kashmir divisional administration, and the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board have been circulated over social media, so that worried kin of the pilgrims can inquire about their loved ones.
“Choppers have been pressed into action and the injured are being airlifted,” the official from the UT administration said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has spoken to J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and has been briefed about the situation. Shah tweeted and expressed condolence to the bereaved families.
“The prime concern right now is to save the lives of the pilgrims. I have talked to LG Manoj Sinha regarding the incident. NDRF, BSF, and the local administration are carrying out rescue missions,” Shah tweeted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also talked to Sinha and taken stock of the situation. “Anguished by the cloudburst. Condolences to the bereaved families. I have talked to Manoj Sinha and have taken stock of the situation,” Modi tweeted.
Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, said he has been “deeply saddened” by the loss of life in the cloudburst, while another former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, said she was “saddened and shocked” by the tragic incident.
Many others, from across the spectrum, joined to express concern and anguish over the incident. People continued to pray for the safety of the missing pilgrims.