Baltal- It was a case of ‘so near yet so far’ for several devotees who were waiting for their turn to pay obeisance at the holy cave shrine of Amarnath, when the cloudburst swept away everything that came in its way, but had to return without having the glimpse of the naturally formed ice-lingam in south Kashmir Himalayas.
The pilgrims had made their way to the base camp established outside the holy cave and were waiting for their turn to have darshan at the evening Aarti (prayer) when the cloudburst struck on Friday at around 5.30 pm.
“Only one person managed to have darshan. I couldn’t have darshan as we were standing just outside the cave shrine in a tent. When the water came, there was chaos, there was landslide, we came out,” Subham Verma from Patna said while recalling the horror that followed the cloudburst last night.
As soon as Verma and his companions came out of the tents, a massive landslide hit the camp site.
“Just two minutes after we crossed, landlsides came but we saved ourselves. Whatever losses in terms of our belongings we incurred, we are not pained by it,” he said.
Another pilgrim Rajan Soni said the rescuers gave them very little time to evacuate from the camp to safer places.
“Do we watch others or ourselves. We left our belongings there. When we returned, Army personnel told us nothing remains there. The Army told us to evacuate in 20 minutes and go to the safe zone. So, we reached the safe zone,” Soni said.
The group is leaving without having darshan but are determined to come back next year.
“We are leaving for home, without darshan. But, we will come back, for sure,” they said.
At least 16 persons have died and scores of others injured while many are missing after the cloudburst which were followed by landslides.
More than 15,000 pilgrims were at different stages of the ardous track to the 3,880 metre high cave shrine from both Pahalgam and Baltal routes but were asked to return to the base camp.
Massive relief and rescue operations have been launched by the Army, NDRF, ITBP, BSF, CRPF and local police to ensure the saftey of the pilgrims.
Hand-held thermal imagers, sniffer dogs and night vision devices were put in service as the searches for missing persons continued through the night.
Helicopters could be making sorties as early as 6,45 am on Saturday, evacuating the injured to hospitals for better treatment while bigger choppers were used to carry the bodies of the deceased to Srinagar for their onward final journey to their native places.
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