[Watch] Amarnath Cloudburst: 16 killed, search for 40 missing still ongoing

[Watch] Amarnath Cloudburst: 16 killed, search for 40 missing still ongoing

New Delhi: A flash flood triggered by a downpour near the holy Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir has swept away pilgrims. At least 16 were killed and 40 others injured. Rescue and relief operations by the Indian Army are underway and the search for the missing is underway, the agencies reported.

Around 15,000 pilgrims were brought to safety, NDTV reported.

According to an official, around 30 to 35 people are missing while five have been rescued. Gushing waters rushing down the side of the mountain due to the incessant rains have damaged 25 tents and three community kitchens where pilgrims are served food.

The downpour occurred around 5:30 p.m. on Friday, resulting in a heavy discharge of water near the Amarnath cave sanctuary. A sudden wave of water from the top and sides of the cave, after heavy rains in the upper parts of the mountain, flooded community tents and kitchens and swept away dozens of people near Baltal base camp.

So far 16 bodies have been recovered and search and rescue teams are looking for survivors under the rock and mud debris. About 15,000 pilgrims have been moved to safer places while the injured will be moved to base camp, India Today reported citing officials.

The Indian Army and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams are carrying out rescue and relief operations, with the assistance of personnel from various paramilitary forces. The administration of Jammu and Kashmir has also fielded advanced light helicopters for rescue operations.

According to ITBP officials, Amarnath Yatra has been temporarily suspended as the area is flooded. “If the weather remains normal and makeshift arrangements are made, the yatra can resume tomorrow (July 9),” officials said.

India’s meteorological department said the death and destruction near the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir was due to a very localized rain event. According to meteorologists, the shrine reported 31mm of rain between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Ganderbal CMO Dr Afroza Shah said all the injured were being treated at the base’s three hospitals; Upper Sacred Cave, Lower Sacred Cave, Panjtarni and other facilities nearby. “The injured patients are well taken care of and are stable at this time,” Shah said.

An integrated command center has been set up under the responsibility of the Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir) in addition to establishing hotline numbers in Anantnag in South Kashmir, Srinagar and Delhi to assist the families of those who may have be affected.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah provided an update on the situation. They spoke to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha by telephone, assuring him of all possible assistance from the Center.

The annual 43-day Amarnath Yatra started from the twin base camps – Nunwan-Pahalgam in south Kashmir to Anantnag and 14km shorter Baltal in central Kashmir to Ganderbal – on June 30. So far, more than a lakh of pilgrims have offered prayers at the cave shrine. The yatra is due to end on August 11 on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan.

  • Support numbers:

    NDRF: 011-23438252, 011-23438253

    Kashmir Divisional Helpline: 0194-2496240

    Sanctuary Helpline: 0194-2313149

    Toll-free numbers for pilgrims embarking on Amarnath Yatra: Jammu–18001807198, Srinagar — 18001807199

Brandon D. James