- Officials said 15,000 stranded pilgrims were shifted to the lower base camp of Panjtarni
- Jammu and Kashmir LG Manoj Sinha chaired a review meeting to take stock of progress of rescue work
- The IMD said the deaths and destruction were due to a highly localised rain event
Amarnath cloudburst: A new video of the tragic cloudburst near Amarnath cave shrine has surfaced showing a sudden inflow of water coming down the hills where temporary camps for the pilgrims were established.
People camping near the cave shrine were seen rushing in panic as the flood water came gushing down.
The death toll in the flash flood triggered by heavy rain near the shrine rose to 16.
Post the incident, the Amarnath Yatra has been suspended from Jammu due to inclement weather conditions, officials said.
Meanwhile, drones and helicopters were pressed into service and mountain rescue teams and lookout patrols with high-tech equipment and sniffer dogs deployed as operations continued on Saturday to look for survivors in the cloudburst incident near the Amarnath cave shrine.
Officials said the operations continued without a break amid fears that many are still trapped under the debris, which is yet to be totally cleared.
They said 15,000 stranded pilgrims were shifted to the lower base camp of Panjtarni and 25 injured people to hospitals after the flash flood and landslides rummaged through tents and community kitchens on Friday afternoon.
However, undeterred by the incident, many devotees were thronged the Amarnath Yatra base camp in Jammu with a "high degree of enthusiasm and devotion" for their onward journey to the cave shrine situated at a height of 3,880 metres in the south Kashmir Himalayas.
They said they have no fear and have full faith in Lord Shiva, adding that it would be a great privilege for them if they die in the abode of the god.
Jammu and Kashmir LG Manoj Sinha chaired a review meeting to take stock of the progress of rescue work.
Meanwhile, many states have set up helplines for information about people who went for the yatra. A control room in West Bengal has also been opened at the state secretariat.
According to an Army official, mountain rescue teams and lookout patrols with high-tech equipment and sniffer dogs were deployed for the search and rescue operation.
"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," the official said.
An Mi-17 chopper of the BSF's air wing was pressed into service. The Jammu and Kashmir administration has also deployed advanced light helicopters for rescue operations.
A Border Security Force (BSF) spokesperson in Delhi said, "Sixteen bodies have been shifted to Baltal."
The IMD said the deaths and destruction were due to a highly localised rain event.
According to weather scientists, the shrine reported 31 mm of rainfall between 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm on Friday, which is quite low to be categorised as a cloudburst.
"The flash floods could have been triggered due to rainfall in the higher reaches of the mountains near the Amarnath cave shrine," IMD Director General Mrutyunjay Mohapatra told PTI.
"Most of the pilgrims, who were stranded near the holy cave shrine area due to the flash flood, have been shifted to Panjtarni. The evacuation continued till 3.38 am. No pilgrim is left on the track. About 15,000 people have been safely shifted till now," the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) spokesperson said.
About 150 pilgrims stayed at the BSF camp set up in Panjtarni on Friday night and 15 patients have been airlifted to Baltal on Saturday morning, he said. The injured were being treated at the Nilkant camp in Sonamarg.
The 43-day Yatra began on June 30 from the twin routes -- the traditional 48-km path from Nunwan in Pahalgam in south Kashmir's Anantnag, and the 14-km shorter but steep Baltal route in Ganderbal district of central Kashmir.
The pilgrimage to the cave shrine 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.
(With inputs from PTI)
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