Cloudburst in Baltal near Amarnath base camp

Three persons were killed and 19 others injured when a cloudburst struck near the base camp of Amarnath yatra along the shorter 16-km Baltal route to the cave shrine in central Kashmir''s Ganderbal district.
Cloudburst in Baltal near Amarnath base camp

Three persons were killed and 19 others injured when a cloudburst struck near the base camp of Amarnathyatra along the shorter 16-km Baltal route to the cave shrine in central Kashmir's Ganderbal district.

Two other persons are missing after the cloudburst last night.

However, the yatra is going on smoothly from the arduous track along with the traditional 45-km Pahalgam route in Anantnag district, officials said.

Authorities have allowed over 1000 pilgrims to proceed towards the shrine from the Baltal base camp.

"So far three bodies were recovered which include that of a girl, aged 13, and a boy aged 12. At least 19 others have sustained injuries and two have gone missing," the official said.

"The cloudburst struck near the Baltal base camp and water entered some tents there," the officials said, adding those present at the camp were moved to safety after the cloudburst.

The officials said the deceased persons were not pilgrims but were camping at Baltal to earn their livelihood.

The officials identified them as cobbler Deepak Kumar (35) of Delhi and shoe-shiners Pooja and Vikram, both residents of Rajasthan.

Locals said the cloudburst hit Zojila hills near BajriNallah, few meters away from Srinagar-Leh highway at 10 pm Saturday night, causing flash floods in the low lying area near main entry gate at Baltal.

Critically injured Abdul QayoomParey of Shopian, a tent owner, was shifted to SKIMS.

About 19 shops, 52 tents, 18 vehicles were damaged while six ponies were washed away in the floods.

Teams of civil administration, police, NDRF, SDRF, Army and Central Armed Police Forces immediately swung into action to carry out search and rescue operations.

Officials said that dog squads have been deployed to assist in the ongoing search and rescue operations.

Governor NN Vohra has expressed grief over the loss of lives and conveyed his condolence to the families of those killed. He has asked CEO SASB to arrange immediate payment of ex-gratia relief of Rs 1 lakh each to next of kin of the deceased persons.

Officials said that Srinagar-Leh road has been closed for vehicular movement and it will take at least two days to clear the debris on seven patches from Ranga to Gumri at Zojila hills. However they said the Srinagar-Baltal road will be thrown open by late Saturday evening.

In the morning, 11 persons were reported missing but majority of them reported to the base hospital. One of them was found in a critical condition and was taken to Srinagar for specialised treatment, the officials said.

They said two persons are still reported missing and efforts are on to trace them.

Officials said 2940 pilgrims left Nunwan base camp along the Pahalgam route in south Kashmir to pay obeisance at the cave shrine which houses the naturally formed ice-shivlingam.

They said 2624 pilgrims visited the cave and offered prayers till 1 PM, taking the number of pilgrims who offered prayers at the shrine to 2,88,677 so far.

The yatra was going on smoothly from both the routes, the officials said.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) P K Tripathi said a total of 29 persons including 26 pilgrims and a CRPF man died during the ongoing yatra which commenced on July 2.

"A total of 26 pilgrims have lost their lives in the yatra area till date, out of whom 24 died due to medical reasons and two expired due to an accident," he said.

He said a CRPF personnel and a community kitchen operator also died of cardiac arrest, while a porter died after he was washed away by a stream.

The yatra is scheduled to end on August 29, coinciding with the festival of RakhshaBandan.

The CEO advised pilgrims to follow the health advisory issued by the Board and take medical assistance available in the Yatra area to prevent any medical complications.

He also advised yatris to take precautions while undertaking this arduous pilgrimage.

The Shrine Board, in coordination with State Health Department, Army, State Police, CRPF, BSF, SSB and NGOs has made elaborate arrangements for providing health facilities at all the camps and en route the shrine.

The health facilities have been established at points which are at approximately 2 km distance, in the entire Yatra area, to provide maximum health facilities to the pilgrims, he said.

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