Amarnath Cave Site Cloudburst | Death toll reaches 15; several still feared missing

The cloudburst that occurred around 5.30 pm on Friday dumped copious rain and thick streams of sludge rolled down the mountain slopes into the valley.
Officials said that the death toll in the flash flood near the cave site has gone to 15 while nine people who were rescued have been shifted to specialised hospitals for treatment.
Officials said that the death toll in the flash flood near the cave site has gone to 15 while nine people who were rescued have been shifted to specialised hospitals for treatment. Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Baltal: The death toll in the flash flood triggered by a cloudburst near the Amarnath cave shrine on Friday rose to 15 on Saturday, while around 15,000 stranded pilgrims were shifted to the lower base camps of Baltal and Panjtarni.

The cloudburst that occurred around 5.30 pm on Friday dumped copious rain and thick streams of sludge rolled down the mountain slopes into the valley.

The gushing waters hit the base camp outside the shrine in south Kashmir, damaging 25 tents and three community kitchens where the pilgrims are served food, officials said.

Officials said that the death toll in the flash flood near the cave site has gone to 15 while nine people who were rescued have been shifted to specialised hospitals for treatment.

They said that over 40 people who had received minor injuries were being treated at base camp hospitals, adding that some of them have been discharged and all stable.

Officials said that many people are still feared to be missing for which the search and rescue operation continues.

They said that atleast nine people were rescued and evacuated from the incident site and have been shifted to SKIMS Soura for specialised treatment.

Officials said that the rescue operations were started Saturday morning as six pilgrims were evacuated.

The military medical teams were receiving patients and casualties at the Nilagrar helipad for onward evacuation," an official said on Saturday.

Official sources said that the 15 dead bodies were airlifted to BSF headquarters Srinagar from where they were taken to police control room and will be sent to their native places.

SSP Haseeb Ur Rehman, Commandant SDRF told Greater Kashmir that so far atleast 15 bodies have been recovered, adding that the search and rescue operation by NDRF, SDRF, BSF, ITBP, Army and IAF besides other agencies continued for second straight day on Saturday.

"The rescue operation started at 6:30 pm on Friday and will continue,” he said, adding that despite the difficult terrain and inclement weather all the agencies involved were relentlessly carrying out the operation.

Talking to media persons DG CRPF Kuldiep Singh said that critically injured people were airlifted to Srinagar. “Two persons who were buried were were rescued alive. We are taking all precautionary steps, adding that 41 missing as per J&K police out of which some were rescued. Yatra may resume within a day or two,” he added.

Pertinently, the flash flood triggered by a cloudburst near the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir swept away scores of people, killing at least 15 and swamping tents and community kitchens on Friday evening. At least 15,000 pilgrims have been shifted to the lower base camp, while more than 40 people are still missing, officials said.

The Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, or ITBP, continued the rescue operation throughout the night as they looked for missing persons in the cloudburst-affected area at the lower Amarnath Cave site.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has sent three teams comprising about 75 rescuers, an official said. In one of the major peacetime rescue operations, the Indian Army has deployed men and machinery including latest equipment to rescue the Amarnath pilgrims who were injured in the flash flood triggered by heavy rain, an Army official said on Saturday.

The rescue team rushed to the site as soon as they received the information about casualties in the cloudburst that occurred on Friday evening, the official said.

Mountain rescue team, sniffer dogs deployed in search ops Mountain rescue teams and lookout patrols with high-tech equipment and sniffer dogs have been deployed for the search and rescue operation, as per an army official. “Air rescue operations started Saturday morning and six pilgrims were evacuated by army helicopters.

The military medical teams are receiving patients and casualties at the Nilagrar helipad for onward evacuation,” an official said. "IAF rescue efforts continue unabated inspite of inclement weather. Mi17 V5 and Cheetal helicopters are operating near the site to airlift the mortal remains of casualties, injured persons, NDRF personnel & relief load since Saturday morning" IAF in a statement said.

In addition, Mi-17 chopper of the BSF's air wing has been pressed into service. The Jammu and Kashmir administration has also deployed advanced light helicopters for rescue operations. The Jammu and Kashmir administration Friday set up a helpline for the Amarnath Yatra.

The annual pilgrimage, which began on June 30, has been suspended following the tragedy and a decision on its resumption will be taken after rescue operations get over, a senior administration official said.

The 43-day Amarnath Yatra is being held after a gap of three years. In 2019, the pilgrimage was cancelled midway ahead of the Centre abrogating Article 370 provisions of the Constitution. The pilgrimage did not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.

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