‘No pilgrim stranded as of now; more than 15,000 pilgrims evacuated’
Anantnag: With the retrieval of a few more bodies, the death toll in Friday’s Baltal mishap, caused by flash floods, has reached 16, while 35 others have been injured and 40 people still remain missing – even as the rescue operations continue.
Only around five of the deceased have been identified as of now, while efforts are on to ascertain the identities of the others.
More than 15,000 pilgrims, who had remained stranded along the track to the Amarnath cave due to flash floods on Friday, have been evacuated and brought safely to the lower base of Panjtirthi.
“No pilgrim is stranded as of now. The evacuations continued till wee hours today,” an Indo-Tibetian Border Police (ITBP) spokesperson has said.
The mishap took place at about 6:00 PM on Friday at the Baltal base camp. Initial reports had suggested that a cloudburst triggered flash floods in the area, washing away more than two dozen tents and some langars along with the people.
Since then, some eyewitnesses have maintained that there was not a cloudburst but water gushed out of a mountain on its own and washed away everything in the way. The death toll was 13 by Friday evening and has now reached 16, as per the NDRF officials.
“The death toll has reached 16, and 40 pilgrims still seem to be missing,” Director General of the NDRF, Atul Karwal, said. “Four of our teams with over 100 rescuers are on job. Besides, the army, SDRF, CRPF, and others are also on the job.”
Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Vijay Kumar has, however, said that 15 pilgrims have been killed thus far. “35 injured have been evacuated to different hospitals and are undergoing treatment. All of them are stable,” Kumar told media persons at the site of the mishap.
He said that the debris will be cleared by Saturday evening and efforts to find other bodies were on. “We are personally monitoring the rescue operations,” he said.
Kumar was accompanied by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir P K Pole and some other senior officials to the site, where they oversaw the rescue operations, carried out by the army, the NDRF, SDRF, ITBP, and Jammu and Kashmir Police.
“Military helicopters were pressed into service to evacuate the injured people to different hospitals,” a senior official in the UT administration said, adding that most of the injured were shifted to SKIMS in Soura of Srinagar.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha reached SKIMS this morning to inquire about the health of the injured pilgrims. “Met the doctors treating the injured and impressed upon all possible treatment for the speedy recovery of those injured,” Sinha said.