Yatra Resumes, 40 Plus Are Believed To Be Missing in Friday Tragedy

SRINAGAR: Officials said that the quick response to the Amarnath flash flood crisis by the IAF and other security agencies was instrumental in saving lives. Three days after the crisis that led to the killing of 17 pilgrims, the yatra resumed from Pahalgam and Baltal routes. However, as many as 47 RIDF pieces are unaccounted for indicating that these people might be missing.

Two sisters-in-law from Delhi, who had been longing to have a darshan at the cave, died in the flash flood hours after they finally visited the cave shrine on July 8, 2022.

Around 47 RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags are still missing. Introduced for the first time, this year primarily for security reasons, these tags offer an idea about the movement of the person who carries it.

Reports said that even though the army laid a new track – as the traditional track was washed away by the flood, various security agencies are scanning the entire debris to locate the missing. They are using thermal images, sniffing dogs and other tools. However, no one has been traced.

LG Manoj Sinha in Pahalgam interacting with the Amarnath bound pilgrims on July 10, 2022. The yatra has been stopped because of the ongoing rescue operation near the cave where flash floods triggered a devastating crisis on July 8, 2022.

A report from Delhi said that the RFIDs is not useful in such tragedies. “There are very few readers installed and their signals don’t get transmitted,” a senior police officer was quoted saying by NDTV. However, the data collected so far suggested that about 26,000 people were leading to holy cave when the tragedy struck. The real job is how many reported back and most of the process is manual.

The other crisis that managers face is that the RIFD supposed to be worn like a neck-tie was kept in bags or pockets that do not send signals. Caught in slush or water, RIFD stops working.

The Army has deployed specialized mountain and avalanche rescue teams to find any possible signs of life in the snow bridge near the cave complex.

Interestingly, the SASB has not issued any statement about the state of rescue or the crisis that hit the track on Friday. Right now the focus is to restore the yatra and address the movement and relief issues if any. The SASB and the government have not reacted to the critique that for the first time the tents were pitched at the most vulnerable places. The spot also flash flood on July 28, 2021. The yatra, however, was suspended because of Covido concerns.

In Srinagar, Air Commodore Pankaj Mittal told reporters on Monday the major part of the rescue and relief operations is over.

“Weather was a major challenge in mounting the rescue and relief operations,” the top IAF officer said. “The Valley (leading to the cave shrine) being narrow and due to clouding, choppers were finding it difficult to enter. There are some minimum parameters like visibility that we need to observe before flying… Even on the 10th, we were not able to operate for more than half the day till 2 pm due to weather.”

The main air operation, he said, was launched on July 9 and it included four MI-17 V5 from the base unit here and four cheetals, which augmented from the unit at Leh, two fixed wing assets which brought in manpower and assets from other parts of the country. The IAF flew 112 missions carrying out 123 evacuations and flew 29 tonnes material to the lower cave and Panchtarni.

Meanwhile, the respective states who lost their members have started looking for the missing, if any. In cases, where deaths are confirmed, compensations have started being announced.

Arvind Kajriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister announced a financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh each for the families of two Delhi residents who were killed near the Amarnath.

“Delhi residents Birmati Ji and Prakashi ji died due to the cloudburst during the Amarnath Yatra. I just met their families,” Kajriwal tweeted. “We will give an assistance of Rs 10 lakh to each family. We will arrange for good education for their children. And will help them in whatever way we can. May God give peace to their souls.”

Virmati, 62, and Prakashi, 60, were sisters-in-law. On July 8, they called up their families to inform them, that they had their darshan and were on their way to the base camp. That was the last communication. Visiting Amarnth, their families said, were the long pending dream. The police conveyed the bad news to the families on July 9.

Meanwhile, four died in the tragedy are said to be from Rajasthan’s Nagaur district, taking the toll in the natural calamity from the state to seven.

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