Over 100 vehicles, 60 tents damaged; Srinagar-Leh road closed
SRINAGAR: At least three persons were killed and seven others are reported missing as a cloud burst struck the base camp of Amarnath Yatra at Baltal near Sonmarg in Central Kashmir late Friday night.
Nine other persons, mostly Amaranth pilgrims, were injured in the calamity that befell the area at around 11. P.M Friday.
Two minors from Rajasthan are among the dead while those missing are mainly local vendors and porters. According to the reports nearly 100 vehicles, 60 tents and four makeshift kitchens (lungers) were also washed away.
A senior official on yatra duty said that the cloud burst struck near Baltal along Zo-jilla mountain range, trapping many pilgrims stationed there. The cloud burst snapped communication links.
Soon after the incident, senior civil and police officers besides the yatra camp director along with personnel of J&K Police, NDRF, SDRF, Army and Central Armed Police Forces swung into action to carry out search and rescue operations.
Following the cloudburst, the water entered the Baltal base camp but timely action by local labourers saved almost all yatris who with the help of police and army re-located at least 780 pilgrims to a nearby army camp, officials said.
The officials said that over 100 vehicles, around 60 tents/shops and the parking area outside the main gate of the Base Camp have been damaged very badly.
So far three bodies have been found and have been identified as Deepak Singh son of Gopal Prasad of Sunder Nagri, New Delhi and the two childrenMiss Pooja (13) daughter of Prakash and Vikram (12) son of Kailash, the official said.
The families of the two children had set up road side kiosks on the track leading to the Yatra Camp. Dog squads have been deployed to assist in the ongoing search and rescue operations, he said.
One seriously injured person, namely Abdul Karim, of Shopian, who was working as a Ponywalla, was air lifted early this morning to SKIMS Srinagar, he said.
The missing persons include Anil Sahu of Indore, Maiser Ahmed son of Yaqub of Sophian, Ashaq Sahid Mir son of Qadir Mir of Kangan, Reyaz Ahmed Lone son of Mohamnad Sultan of Kangan, Mustaq Ahmed son of Abdul Rehman of Reasi, Ramadevi wife of Kailash of Rajasthan and Fayaz Ahmed Mir son of Nasiruddin of Kupwara.
The search and rescue operations have been launched by Armys 24 RR and police to trace the missing persons. Those critically injured have been evacuated by army with the help of helicopters.
Meanwhile, following the flash floods due to the cloud burst, the Sonamarg-Ghumri road was closed to vehicular traffic as the thoroughfare suffered extensive damage at several places due to landslides.
The Border Road Organization has been directed to deploy its men and machinery to remove blockades and ensure the earliest possible opening of the road.
Following the cloudburst at Baltal, Armys 15 Corps GOC Lt Gen Subarta Saha along with senior army officers visited the base camp and reviewed the situation.
Meanwhile, the pilgrimage has continued from both the Pahalgam and Baltal routes, and 2940 persons left from Chandanwari Access Control Gate and 1276 persons from the Domel Access Control Gate by 11 am today morning. Helicopter services from both Pahalgam and Neelgrath helipads are also operating and over 2200 Yatris had paid obeisance at the Holy Cave by 12 noon on Saturday.
Governor has expressed grief over the loss of precious lives and conveyed his heartfelt condolence to the families of those killed. He has asked CEO to arrange immediate payment of ex-gratia relief of Rs.1.00 lac each to next of kin of the deceased persons. The Governor has also conveyed thanks to GOC XV Corps for his prompt personal initiatives to deal with the unforeseen disaster at Baltal. (GNS)
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