15 killed, 40 injured in Amarnath cave area cloudburst

Priority is to save lives: LG; briefs PM, HM
15 killed, 40 injured in Amarnath cave area cloudburst
Photo: ANI

Baltal, July 8: Atleast fifteen people lost their lives while several are feared missing in flashfloods triggered by a cloudburst near the Amarnath cave shrine on Friday. The cloudburst occurred around 5:30 pm on Friday in the upper reaches of Amarnath cave shrine triggering flashfloods that washed away several makeshift tents and community kitchens.

Officials said that at around 5.30 pm amid heavy rainfall, suddenly a huge flow of water came down gushing due to a cloudburst that occurred in the upper reaches of Amarnath cave.

Soon after the incident, a massive rescue operation was launched by the NDRF, SDRF, Jammu and Kashmir Police, Army, CRPF, BSF, ITBP and other agencies.

They said one NDRF team besides QRT and personnel from other agencies which are always deployed near the holy cave, immediately engaged in the rescue work.

Officials said that atleast thirteen people lost their lives while over forty people are injured, adding that several are feared missing and a massive rescue operation has been launched to trace them.

An official said that during the rescue operation atleast five people were rescued alive from the debris in flashfloods.

The army choppers have been pressed into service for the rescue and evacuation process.

Chief Medical Officer Ganderbal, Dr Afroza Shah told Greater Kashmir that although the exact number of casualties is not known yet, she said 15 persons have died in the cloudburst. She also said that more than 40 persons have got injured, including two with head injuries. “The rescue operation is still going on,” Dr Shah said, adding that the injured are being given first aid and the persons with head injury are being airlifted for specialised treatment.

CMO Ganderbal further stated the base hospital has been kept in an alert mode where critical care specialists and paramedical staff is deployed. “At least 28 doctors and 98 paramedical staff are at the base hospital to tackle the emergency situation,” she said, adding that 16 ambulances have been kept in a ready mode, but said that no evacuation has been received yet.

Meanwhile, the Army launched six rescue teams including Army helicopters for aid of Yatris in Cloudburst affected area at lower Amarnath Cave site.

“This is an unfortunate incident. Our focus is to rescue the pilgrims and take them to safe places. NDRF helpline numbers are active. Rescue work is underway. Army helicopters are also in action. Search operation is on,” Nitishwar Kumar, CEO Amarnath Shrine Board said.

Looking at the hazard level, the Amarnath Yatra has been halted temporarily due to the area being inundated. If the weather remains normal and makeshift arrangements are made, then the yatra can be resumed tomorrow (Saturday)," officials said.

The annual 43-day Amarnath yatra commenced from the twin base camps — Nunwan-Pahalgam in south Kashmir’s Anantnag and 14-km shorter Baltal in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal — on June 30. So far, over one lakh pilgrims have offered prayers at the cave shrine. The yatra is set to end on August 11 on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan.

Meanwhile, an official statement issued here said “an unfortunate incident of cloudburst occurred at the Holy Cave area of Shri Amarnathji Friday evening,”

Rescue operation by CRPF, NDRF, SDRF, BSF, Army, JKP & Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board is in progress. ALH Choppers pressed into action for rescue of the injured.

As per the official statement, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha spoke to the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Hon’ble Home Minister Shri Amit Shah and briefed them about the incident and on-going rescue operation. The centre is extending all the assistance.

“Our priority is to save the lives of people. Instructions have been issued to provide all necessary assistance to pilgrims. I am closely monitoring the situation”, the Lt Governor said.

The Lt Governor expressed grief over the loss of lives in the tragic incident.

“Deeply pained by the unfortunate incident of cloudburst at Shri Amarnathji holy cave, in which precious lives have been lost. I send my heartfelt condolences to bereaved families”, said the Lt Governor.

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