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Amarnath Yatra: After cloudburst tragedy, over 15,000 rescued, 40 still missing

After cloudburst and flash floods on Friday evening claimed at least 16 lives, the Amarnath Yatra remains suspended in Jammu and Kashmir. More than 40 people are still missing and rescue operations – that continued overnight – are still on. On Saturday morning, 11 injured yatris (pilgrims) were airlifted from the shrine – the Holy Cave – to the Baltal base camp hospital as the IMD (India Meteorological Department) office in Srinagar predicted fresh flash floods. J&K’s Lt Governor Manoj Sinha is constantly monitoring the situation.

“Most of the pilgrims who were stranded near the holy cave area due to flash floods last evening have been shifted to Panjtarni. The ITBP expanded its route opening and protection parties from lower holy cave to Panjtarni. No pilgrim left on track. About 15,000 people (have been) safely shifted,” the Indo-Tibetan Border Police said in a statement.

Those injured are being treated at a makeshift hospital near the shrine, officials said. Early on Saturday morning, 11 injured yatris were brought to the Baltal base camp hospital in army choppers. “After the initial treatment, those injured will be shifted to Srinagar,” said a doctor. Health officials said that all the hospitals have braced up for the situation, and leaves of the staff and doctors are cancelled. Four bodies were also brought to the Baltal base camp.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir & Divisional Commissioner Kashmir on Saturday also reached the shrine to take stock of the situation.

The army officials said that one battalion of soldiers, along with troops of special forces, the BSF (Border Security Force), the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) and the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) were busy in rescue work. “The searches are going on and we are hopeful that more people will be rescued. The situation is under control. Civilians who were recovered from the nullah/stream have been given first aid and their condition is better,” said an army officer.

Rescue dogs have also been deployed in the search for the missing persons.

The officials said that a cloud burst – at 6:40 pm on Friday – caused landslide and flash floods that damaged and swept away dozens of tents and community meal set ups near the Holy Cave.

Haseeb Ur Rehman, Director SDRF (State Disaster Response Fund ) and Civil Defense Kashmir, confirmed that 13 dead bodies have been recovered so far. “Among the dead, 11 are women and two are men.” He said three SDRF personnel also sustained minor injuries.

Meanwhile, the IMD, in a statement on Saturday morning, said that there was a possibility of light rain on the Pahalgam and Baltal routes. “Likely to decrease further during the next 1-2 hours. After that another cloud moving towards Baltal-Holy Cave route likely to cause light to moderate rain that could trigger flash flood,” the weather office said, warning people to remain alert.

The administration and the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board have shared helpline numbers. “Helpline numbers for Amarnath Yatra:NDRF: 011-23438252 011-23438253Kashmir Divisional Helpline: 0194-2496240Shrine Board Helpline: 0194-2313149,” the public relations department of the government and the SASB tweeted from their respective handles.

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