SRINAGAR: With at least 15 pilgrims dead and 30-40 still missing in the flash flood triggered by a cloudburst, the Amarnath yatra has been suspended till further orders.
The evening cloud burst has washed away a tented colony and a number of community kitchens that offer free food to the pilgrims who trek a hazardous track to reach a cave shrine deep in Kashmir Himalayas. They make special prayers at Shivlingham, an ice stalagmite considered to be a physical manifestation of the god Shiva. The snow covered cave is opened for Hindu pilgrimage for brief periods during peak summer. This year, the yatra, resumed after more than two years, is expected to complete within 42 days.
A rescue operation is still on but a huge battery of SDRF, police and paramilitary men failed to locate all the people washed away by the flash flood. Most of the bodies had either been washed to the shores by the flood or buried under debris very close to the cave shrine.
The tragedy was mourned by all the political parties and leaders in Kashmir. President and the Prime Minister also condoled the deaths.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said he spoke to Prime Minister and Home Minister Shri Amit Shah and briefed them about the incident and on-going rescue operation. The centre is extending all the assistance.
“Our priority is to save the lives of people. Instructions have been issued to provide all necessary assistance to pilgrims. I am closely monitoring the situation”, the Lt Governor said. “Deeply pained by the unfortunate incident of cloudburst at Shri Amarnathji holy cave, in which precious lives have been lost. I send my heartfelt condolences to bereaved families,” he added.