Amarnath Cloudburst: 16 dead, about 40 still missing and over 15,000 rescued. Here’s what we know so far

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An official on the ground said about 40 people are missing while five have been rescued.

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

According to the automatic weather station at the holy cave, the area received 31 mm rainfall from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

“It was a highly localised cloud only over the holy cave. Such rain had happened earlier this year as well. No flash flood,” said Sonam Lotus, director of J&K’s meteorological department.

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

Here’s what we know so far:

Indian Air Force has deployed 2 each ALH Dhruv and Mi-17 V5 helicopters from Srinagar for the rescue ops in Amarnath cave site. One AN-32 and Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft on stand by in Chandigarh for further requirements, IAF officials said.

The Army personnel reached Nilgrar, Baltal to evacuate the affected in the aftermath of the cloudburst incident which was reported, early this morning. Major Pankaj Kumar, Nodal Medical Officer, Northern Route  said that about 10 patients were there, 2 received head injury, 5 have fracture and 2-3 cases of hypothermia.

Vivek Kumar Pandey, PRO, ITBP said that Rescue operation has been intensified. “Around 30-40 people are still missing. The weather is clear near Amarnath cave. The injured people have been brought to base using helicopters. Yatra is still on hold & we’re advising people not to move ahead, he said. 

The Indian army officials said that 15 have dead in the Amarnath cloud burst incident. “Rescue operation continues. The foot yatra has been temporarily suspended,” they said.

Indian Air Force’s Mi-17 helicopters have taken off from Srinagar to join the rescue operations at the Amarnath cave site. The aircraft have been on stand-by since morning but could not take off due to bad weather in Srinagar and adjoining areas, the IAF officials have said.

The ITBP has informed that most of the pilgrims who were stranded near holy cave area due to flash flood last evening have been shifted to Panjtarni. ITBP expanded its route opening & protection parties from lower holy cave to Panjtarni. No pilgrim left on track. About 15,000 people safely shifted, it said

An official of the union territory administration said the Amarnath yatra, 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. However, a fresh batch of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims left from the Jammu base camp for Baltal and Pahalgam base camps in Kashmir. “We are heading towards the Pahalgam camp and are hoping that yatra will resume. We pray to Baba Bholenath to protect all the pilgrims,” a pilgrim told ANI.

NDRF Director General Atul Karwal told PTI that a team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was already based in the affected area and two more from nearby locations of Barari Marg and Panchtarni have reached there.

“We have three teams comprising about 75 rescuers in action right now,” Karwal said.

Temporary hospitals have been set up in Sonamarg and other places for providing assistance to the injured.

As of now, all injured are being taken care of at all three base hospitals; upper holy cave, lower holy cave, Panjtarni & other nearby facilities. The injured patients are being managed well and are stable as of now, said Dr Afroza Shah, Ganderbal Chief Medical Officer, Jammu and Kashmir told ANI.

An integrated command centre has been put in place under the charge of Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir) besides establishing helpline numbers in Anantnag in south Kashmir, Srinagar and Delhi to help the families of those who might have been affected.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has also pressed Advanced Light Helicopters into service for rescue operations. Videos showed water running through the tents and people scampering to safety carrying gas stoves and blankets. A group of rescuers was seen digging the earth with bare hands as they gingerly looked for survivors under the rock-and-mud debris.

Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir has cancelled all leaves of the staff (Regular/Contractual) and directed them to report to duties immediately. All the officers directed to keep their mobiles switched on.

 

Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir letter to the staff

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Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir letter to the staff (ANI)

ITBP spokesperson Vivek Kumar Pandey said security forces are working tirelessly to ensure each and every missing person is accounted for.

The ITBP troops also helped the pilgrims and provided first aid to injured at Sangam Top. These pilgrims have been diverted from holy cave to panchtarni after flash flood near the holy cave. Search and rescue operations are on.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has set up four helpline numbers where people can get information about the incident.

NDRF: 011-23438252, 011-23438253

Kashmir Divisional Helpline: 0194-2496240

Shrine Board Helpline: 0194-2313149

The 43-day Amarnath yatra began after a gap of three years on June 30.

In 2019, the yatra 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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