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Amarnath pilgrimage suspended after cloudburst and flash floods

KOLKATA, India — Flash floods triggered by a cloudburst killed at the least 16 individuals throughout an annual Hindu pilgrimage to a Himalayan mountain collapse India’s Kashmir area.

Officers mounted a mass rescue effort as 40 others had been lacking Saturday. The cloudburst that occurred within the space of ​​a sacred Hindu cave about 75 miles west of Srinagar the day prior to this introduced the Amarnath pilgrimage to a halt.

Roughly 15,000 pilgrims had been shifted to a base camp at a decrease altitude, and rescue staff used helicopters to maneuver these stranded across the cave.

“First it began to rain slowly, which is regular at this altitude. Then, swiftly, we heard a loud bang, like a blast,” stated Manzoor Ahmad Lone, 31, a photographer who stated he has camped close to the cave yearly since 2012. “I really feel fortunate to be alive,” Lone stated.

Video from native media exhibits floodwaters gushing down the hills as loudspeakers instruct individuals to go away the realm. Eyewitnesses reported seeing enormous, truck-sized rocks fall from the highest of the hills as torrents swept up tents and kitchens. Rescue work was hampered by the problem of transferring heavy equipment into the area. Military personnel labored with hand instruments to clear particles.

“We had been terrified by what we noticed,” an eyewitness informed NEITHER information company. This 12 months, greater than 300,000 pilgrims had registered for the journey to catch a glimpse of the Amarnath shivling, a pure ice stalagmite thought-about a type of the god Shiva, at an altitude of almost 4,000 meters above sea degree. The trek to the cave could be made on foot or by pony. Some 80,000 individuals had accomplished the pilgrimage this 12 months.

“We rapidly ran in the direction of increased grounds for security. However not everybody was so fortunate or fast. We might hear individuals crying for assist,” Lone, the photographer, stated. “They had been buried beneath heaps of rock and particles.”

“We’ve got evacuated almost 100 injured individuals. There are individuals nonetheless buried right here,” Lt. Gene. Amardeep Singh Aujla told reporters on the Sangam base camp. “We hope to get them out within the subsequent 24 hours.”

With rescue operations underway, the dying toll is predicted to rise. Cloudbursts usually are not unknown within the area, however the rising frequency of maximum climate occasions has alarmed researchers and activists. The final main flood within the valley occurred in 2014. Fast urbanization and erosion of pure wetlands has made the area notably susceptible to a altering local weather.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences and spoke to native officers about rescue efforts. “Rescue and reduction operations are underway. All potential help is being offered to the affected,” he stated.

This was the primary pilgrimage in three years after a stoppage as a result of coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, the federal government halted the pilgrimage halfway and requested individuals to show again days earlier than it revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous standing.

The pilgrimage has been fraught with dangers prior to now as effectively. Till a couple of many years in the past, it was performed over 15 days solely. In 1996, snowstorms and blizzards killed almost 240 pilgrims. A committee arrange by the federal government within the aftermath of the tragedy had really helpful capping the variety of pilgrims at 100,000 yearly.

Irfan reported from Srinagar.

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