Inclement weather forces Amarnath yatra suspension in Kashmir

The Amarnath yatra from the three main base camps was suspended Sunday due to widespread intermittent rains in Jammu and Kashmir for the fourth successive day, with the weather department predicting snowfall in the cave area later in the day, officials said.

They said that any decision on resumption will be taken later in the day based on the weather condition.

However, nearly 1,000 pilgrims who had reached the cave shrine situated at an altitude of 3,880 metre in south Kashmir Himalayas were allowed to offer prayers in the morning, they said.

“To avoid any untoward incident, no pilgrim was allowed from the three main base camps — Bhagwati Nagar in Jammu, Nunwan-Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district — Sunday morning,” a yatra official said.

He said the yatra from the base camps was suspended in view of the intermittent rains in wide parts of the state for the fourth successive day which rendered the tracks unsafe.

The helicopter service was also suspended for the day due to bad weather, the official said.

All the pilgrims who had reached various halting stations enroute to the cave are safe, he said.

On Sunday, 990 pilgrims paid their obeisance till 10 am at the cave shrine, housing the naturally formed ice-shivlingam, raising the footfall so far this year to 3,18,816.

The 46-day yatra commenced from the twin routes — 36-km traditional Pahalgam in Anantnag district and a shorter 14-km Baltal track in Ganderbal district — on July 1 and is scheduled to end on August 15, coinciding with the festival of Raksha Bandhan.

State Meteorological Department Director Sonam Lotus said there was no forecast of any major change in the prevailing weather conditions.

“We expect significant fall in temperature at Baltal, holy cave and Sheshnag areas during next couple of days. Holy cave area may even get snowfall this (Sunday) evening,” he said, urging the pilgrims to take necessary precautionary measures and wear woolen clothes and raincoats to stay warm.

He said significant improvement is most likely from August 1 onwards.

A total of 33 people including 29 pilgrims, two ‘sevadaars’ (volunteers) and two security personnel have died, mostly due to natural causes, since the commencement of the yatra this year.

Deaths due to cardiac arrest triggered by lack of oxygen in the area around the cave shrine have been common over the years, prompting the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board to issue regular health advisories to pilgrims.

As many as 40 pilgrims have taken ill or sustained injuries due to shooting stones and other causes since the commencement of the pilgrimage, the officials said.