Amarnath pilgrims left stranded after landslides disrupt traffic on Jammu-Srinagar highway
Banihal/Jammu, Jun 29: Over 2,000 Amarnath pilgrims, who were part of the third batch, were today left stranded on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway as heavy rains triggered landslides at several places, disrupting smooth flow of traffic on the hilly road, officials said.
Braving heavy rains, the third batch of 2,876 pilgrims, including 544 women, left the Bhagwati Nagar base camp here for Kashmir early today in a convoy under tight security cover to pay obeisance at the 3,880 metre high holy cave shrine of Amarnath, but faced frequent stoppage due to blocking of the 260-km highway by landslides, they said.
Though timely action by the concerned authorities ensured removal of hurdles and reopening of the highway – the only all weather road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country, the authorities stopped part of the convoy in Udhampur district as a precautionary measure, the officials said. They said 844 pilgrims, including 229 women, heading for the Baltal base camp, crossed the Jawahar Tunnel – the gateway to the Kashmir Valley. However, all the 2,032 pilgrims, including 315 women, who have opted for the traditional 36-km Pahalgam route, were stopped in Udhampur district and would proceed towards their destination tomorrow morning provided the road is traffic worthy, the officials said.
Adequate arrangements have been made for the stranded passengers by the district administration, they said. No 'sadhus' and children were part of the third batch, the officials said. Heavy rains in the Banihal-Udhampur sector had triggered landslides and shooting stones at four places at Panthal, Nedgard, Digdol and Samroli this morning, blocking the highway but the agencies concerned pressed men and machines into service and after hectic efforts cleared the blockade in the shortest possible time.
A fresh landslide at Gangroo near Ramsu blocked the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway this afternoon and it took over two hours for the authorities to clear the road, the officials said. Monsoon rains lashed wide parts of Jammu and Kashmir, including the highway for the third day today. The officials said that the authorities are monitoring the weather situation and a decision to allow the fourth batch of pilgrims from the base camp here would be taken accordingly. Nearly 1,300 pilgrims paid obeisance at the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas today, an official said.