At least 15 people have died in a cloudburst near the Amarnath cave in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday evening. According to officials, search is still on for 30-40 people.
The cloud burst under the Amarnath cave at around 5.30 pm. On the spot, NDRF, SDRF and all the agencies related to rescue work are engaged in relief and rescue work.
Rescued pilgrims who arrived at Sonamarg’s Baltal base camp from the sacred Amarnath cave after it was hit by downpours recounted their harrowing experiences.
Deepak Chouhan, a Hardoi pilgrim from Uttar Pradesh, told the ANI news agency: “A stampede-like situation happened there, but the Army was very supportive. Many pandals were swept away by the water.”
Another Sumit pilgrim from Maharashtra said, “The floods caused by the downpour washed away a lot of stones. We were two kilometers from the location of the downpour.”
Another pilgrim said, “When the downpour came, we couldn’t believe it. After a while, we only saw water and water. We were a group of seven or eight people, by the grace of Bholenath, we were all saved. However, we all had a harrowing experience as we saw people and bags being swept away by the water.”
“Within 10 minutes of the downpour, eight casualties were reported. A large number of stones were washed away by the water. There were approximately 15,000 pilgrims who came for the pilgrimage. The pilgrims continued to come despite the heavy rain,” he added.
ITBP spokesperson Vivek Panda told news agency PTI on Saturday, “We have received information from the local administration that around 30-40 people may be missing. We are working with ITBC, Army, NDRF, SDRF and Jammu and Kashmir Police. We are working. We can find many missing people from the cave area.”
Earlier, NDRF DG Atul Karwal said on Friday, “Hope the water flow will reduce but we are ready for any situation. According to reports, 10 people have been confirmed dead and three people have been rescued alive.”
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Police, some langars and tents have come in the grip of sudden floods due to cloudburst.
Atul Karwal said, “NDRF team is stationed near the cave, that team immediately started the rescue work. Two teams are nearby, one of which has reached there and has started work. According to the NDRF staff present there, 10 people have been confirmed dead and three people have been evacuated alive.
Chief Medical Officer (CM) Ganderbal, Dr Afroza Shah said that although the exact number of casualties is not known yet, the figures so far received said that 13 persons have died in the cloudburst.
She also said that more than 40 persons have got injured including two with head injuries in the incident. “The rescue operation is still going on,” she said, adding that the injured are being given first aid and the persons with head injury are being airlifted for specialized treatment.
CMO Ganderbal further stated the base hospital has been kept in a ready mode where critical care specialists and paramedical staff is deployed. “At least 28 doctors and 98 paramedical staff are at the base hospital to tackle the emergency situation,” she said, adding that 16 ambulances have been kept in a ready mode, but said that no evacuation has been received yet.
“All the injured as per the reports received are stable,” she said and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured.
SASB gave out four telephone numbers where people can get information about the cloudburst. Helpline numbers for Amarnath Yatra: NDRF: 011-23438252 011-23438253, Kashmir Divisional Helpline: 0194-2496240, Shrine Board Helpline: 0194-2313149,” the public relations department of the government and the SASB tweeted from their respective handles. “
Meanwhile, an official of the union territory administration said the Amarnath yatra has been suspended for the time being in view of the tragedy. A decision on resumption of the pilgrimage will be taken after rescue operations are completed.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the tragedy was not actually caused by a downpour, but by “very localized rainfall”.
Every year, IMD publishes a special weather advisory for Amarnath Yatra. The overall daily forecast for the district on Friday was a yellow alert (ie keep a watch). Even the afternoon forecast, on the Amarnath Yatra forecast website at 4:07 p.m. it said: “Partly cloudy sky with a chance of very light rain” for the entire route from the Pahalgam side and the Baltal side. There was no accompanying warning.
According to the data from the automatic weather station (AWS) in the sacred cave, it did not rain from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. “Then there was only 3mm of rain between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. However, between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. there was a precipitation of 28 mm”, reports the IANS news agency quoting an IMD scientist.
As per IMD criterion, only if there is 100 mm rainfall in one hour then it is termed as cloudburst.
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