Close to 10,000 pilgrims seeking to trek to the Vaishno Devi temple were left stranded at the Katra base camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district on Wednesday after authorities suspended the yatra because of raging forest fires in Trikuta Hills, about 50 km from Jammu, the Hindustan Times reported. The shrine board, which runs the temple, also moved to safety 3,000 of the 25,000 pilgrims who had registered for the day’s trek.
“Nearly 3,000 yatris have been moved to safety near Himkoti Marg in Adhkuwari area,” the paper quoted a shrine board official as saying. “Two MI-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force and a light utility helicopter were pressed into service to douse the fire. It is being controlled by over 200 ground staff deployed by the CRPF and the shrine board. There are no injuries to the pilgrims or any adverse reports. They have been moved to safer areas.”
Katra Station House Officer Surinder Samyal said that 25,000 pilgrims were already on their way to the shrine when the forest fire broke out around 2 pm. The decision to suspend the yatra was taken an hour later.