11th batch of over 6,000 pilgrims leave Jammu for Amarnath cave shrine
Jammu, July 09: The 11th batch of over 6,000 Amarnath pilgrims left the Jammu city on Saturday for the twin base camps in Kashmir even as the annual pilgrimage to the cave shine in south Kashmir was halted because of the flash floods triggered by heavy rainfall that killed at least 16 people.
The 43-day Yatra began on June 30 from the twin routes -- the traditional 48-km from Nunwan in Pahalgam in south Kashmir's Anantnag, and the 14-km shorter but steep Baltal route in Ganderbal district of central Kashmir.
However, the pilgrimage has been suspended after the flash flood near the cave shrine on Friday evening swept away scores of people, swamping tents and community kitchens with mud and rocks hurtling down a hillside.
A decision on the resumption of the pilgrimage will be taken after rescue operations get over, a senior administration official said.
A total of 6,048 pilgrims left the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in Jammu city in a convoy of 279 vehicles amid heavy CRPF security, officials said. They said 1,404 pilgrims, heading for Baltal, were the first to leave the Bhagwati Nagar camp in 115 vehicles around 3.30 am followed by the second convoy of 164 vehicles carrying 4,014 pilgrims for Pahalgam.
With this, 69,535 pilgrims have left the Bhagwati Nagar base camp for the Valley since June 29, the day the first batch of pilgrims was flagged off by Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha.
Till Saturday, over one lakh pilgrims have offered their prayers at the cave shrine, the officials said. The yatra is scheduled to end on August 11 on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan.