Amarnath Cloudburst: 16 killed in flash floods due to cloudburst, relief work continues

New Delhi: At least 16 people died in flash floods triggered by a cloudburst on Friday at a camp near the Amarnath cave shrine in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir. and 25 others were injured. While more than 40 people are still missing.

The cloudburst occurred around 6 pm and flash floods washed away a part of the camp and officials estimated at least 25 tents were affected.

At least 15,000 pilgrims have been shifted to the lower base camp, officials said.

The Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, or ITBP, continued rescue operations overnight as they searched for missing people in the cloudburst-hit area at the lower Amarnath cave site. An official said that the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has sent three teams of about 75 rescue workers.

Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir) K Pandurang Pol told the media, “At least 12 people have lost their lives in the camp, and 25 are injured and are undergoing treatment. The roads of both Anantnag and Ganderbal are open. The yatra has been stopped for the night as per the routine.

Pol said that communication and power supply is on in the camps. “Around 3,000 people live in the camp. The incident happened around 6 pm when most of the pilgrims were either on the trek or were going for dinner.

IGP (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar said that the rescue operation is being carried out by J&K Police, NDRF and security forces. He said the injured are “being airlifted for treatment” and the situation is “under control”. The identity of the dead is yet to be ascertained.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives and said “all possible help is being provided” to the affected. Modi said he spoke to Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and took stock of the situation. “Rescue and relief operations are on,” he posted on Twitter.

Sinha said rescue teams have been dispatched to the spot and instructions have been given to provide all necessary assistance to the pilgrims. He said that Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have assured all possible help.

“Instructions have been issued to provide all necessary assistance to the pilgrims. I am monitoring the situation closely,” Sinha said. “The priority is to save lives”, Shah said on Twitter.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti expressed concern over the safety of the pilgrims. Abdullah tweeted that she was “deeply saddened by the news of the loss of precious lives” while the Mufti posted that she was “saddened and shocked”.

The Amarnath Shrine Board has set up a helpline for pilgrims and families. The yatra started from June 30 and will last for 43 days. It was held in August 2019 after a gap of two years following the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the pandemic.

(with agency input)