The toll due to the cloudburst near the Amarnath cave in Kashmir rose to 16 on Saturday, and more than 40 persons are missing, ANI reported.
The cloudburst occurred around 5.30 pm on Friday, resulting in heavy discharge of water in a canal adjoining the cave. A large number of pilgrims who were slated to take part in the annual Amarnath Yatra were present in the area when the cloudburst took place.
The flash floods and landslides affected the tents and the community kitchens near the shrine.
While there has been rainfall at the site on Saturday, it has not posed problems in rescue work, the National Disaster Response Force’s Director General Atul Karwal said. Four NDRF teams with more than 100 personnel are taking part in rescue work, Karwal stated.
The Indian Army, State Disaster Response Force and Central Reserve Police Force are also engaged in rescue operations, he said.
The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, which manages the annual pilgrimage, on Friday set up helpline numbers for those stranded due to heavy rains and floods.
Additional Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Vijay Kumar has been supervising the rescue operations, PTI reported. Kumar said that the rescuers were clearing the debris to look for stuck pilgrims, he said. The administration was cross-checking the data of pilgrims to get the exact number of casualties, he added.
Every pilgrim has been provided with a Radio Frequency Identification card this time because of terror threats.
A pilgrim from Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi district, Deepak Chouhan, said that several pandals in the area were washed away in the flood water, ANI reported. “A stampede-like situation happened there, but Army supported a lot,” he said.
Another pilgrim named Sumit said that floods caused by the cloudburst had carried several large stones along.
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police said that about 15,000 persons had been safely shifted from the site, PTI reported.
“Most of the pilgrims who were stranded near the holy cave area due to flash floods last evening have been shifted to Panjtarni,” it said. “The ITBP expanded its route opening and protection parties from lower holy cave to Panjtarni.”
Twelve passengers from Uttarakhand, who were trapped in the Panchtarni Helipad, were airlifted to the Srinagar camp, according to ANI.
The injured people are being given treatment at a makeshift hospital near the shrine. A doctor said that after preliminary treatment, they will be taken to Srinagar.
Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board officials told ANI that 35 pilgrims have been discharged after treatments.
Visuals by the Indian Army and the NDRF showed search and rescue operations underway in the area.
On Saturday, National Conference President Farooq Abdullah said that the government should order an inquiry into how tents and community kitchens were set up in a highly-vulnerable area close to the Amarnath cave shrine, PTI reported.
“The location of the tents and langars is such that I do not think these things were done there earlier,” he said. “This needs to be investigated, may be it is a human error.”
On Friday, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had said that he was closely monitoring the situation. He said that the Central Reserve Police Force has been engaged in rescue and relief operations, and helicopters have been pressed into action for rescuing injured persons.