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Amarnath cloudburst: Yatra temporarily suspended; Death toll rises to 16

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Srinagar, July 09: The Amarnath yatra, which began on June 30, has been temporarily suspended from both Baltal and Pahalgam base camps following the tragedy and a decision on its resumption will be taken after rescue operations get over.

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    The death toll in the flash flood triggered by heavy rain near the Amarnath cave shrine rose to 16 on Saturday as the search operations continued without a break amid fears that many are still trapped under the debris.

    Amarnath cloudburst: Yatra temporarily suspended; Death toll rises to 15

    Teams of NDRF, SDRF, BSF, CRPF, Army, police and ITBP resumed rescue operation with the first light on Saturday morning, officials said.

    A Border Security Force spokesperson in Delhi said "16 bodies have been shifted to Baltal."

    The ITBP has expanded its route opening and protection parties from the lower part of the holy cave up to Panjtarni, a spokesperson of the force said.

    An official on the ground said about 40 people are missing while five have been rescued.

    NDRF Director General Atul Karwal told PTI that a team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was already based in the affected area and two more from nearby locations of Barari Marg and Panchtarni have reached there. "We have three teams comprising about 75 rescuers in action right now," Karwal said.

    Amarnath tragedy result of highly localised rain event: IMDAmarnath tragedy result of highly localised rain event: IMD

    A small BSF team is also deployed at the Neelgrath helipad to assist the pilgrims coming from the cave shrine. About 150 pilgrims stayed at the BSF camp set up in Panjtarni on Friday night and 15 patients have been airlifted to Baltal on Saturday morning, he said.

    A Mi-17 chopper of the BSF's air wing has been pressed into service apart from similar assets of the Army.

    Meanwhile, another cloudburst was reported early morning at Gunti Forest uphills in Thathri town of J&K's Doda district. SSP Doda, Abdul Qayoom, said that some vehicles were stuck and the highway was blocked for some time, but it has now been restored for the movement of traffic, reported ANI.

    On Friday, the cloudburst that occurred around 5.30 pm dumped copious rain and thick streams of sludge rolled down the mountain slopes into the valley. According to the automatic weather station at the holy cave, the area received 31 mm rainfall from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

    "It was a highly localised cloud only over the holy cave. Such rain had happened earlier this year as well. No flash flood," said Sonam Lotus, director of J&K's meteorological department.

    The gushing waters hit the base camp outside the shrine, damaging 25 tents and three community kitchens where the pilgrims are served food, according to officials. Temporary hospitals have been set up in Sonamarg and other places for providing assistance to the injured.

    An integrated command centre has been put in place under the charge of Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir) besides establishing helpline numbers in Anantnag in south Kashmir, Srinagar and Delhi to help the families of those who might have been affected.

    Videos showed water running through the tents and people scampering to safety carrying gas stoves and blankets. A group of rescuers was seen digging the earth with bare hands as they gingerly looked for survivors under the rock-and-mud debris.

    Amarnath cloudburst: What we know so farAmarnath cloudburst: What we know so far

    The Jammu and Kashmir administration has set up four helpline numbers where people can get information about the incident. The 43-day Amarnath yatra began after a gap of three years on June 30.

    In 2019, the yatra was cancelled midway ahead of the Centre abrogating Article 370 provisions of the Constitution. The pilgrimage did not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.

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