At least 16 people have been killed while 15,000 pilgrims, who were stranded near the Amarnath holy cave in Jammu and Kashmir due to a flash flood triggered by a cloudburst, have been shifted to the lower base camp of Panjtarni, officials said Saturday.
A Border Security Force spokesperson in Delhi said "16 bodies have been shifted to Baltal."
According to an ITBP spokesperson, 15,000 pilgrims, who were stranded near the Amarnath holy cave in Jammu and Kashmir due to a flash flood triggered by a cloudburst, have been shifted to the lower base camp of Panjtarni.
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.
The cloudburst that occurred around 5.30 pm on Friday dumped copious rain and thick streams of sludge rolled down the mountain slopes into the valley. The gushing waters hit the base camp outside the shrine in south Kashmir, damaging 25 tents and three community kitchens where the pilgrims are served food, according to officials.
The flash flood near the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir swept away scores of people, killing at least 16 and swamping tents and community kitchens on Friday evening.
"Most of the yatris, who were stranded near holy cave area due to the flash flood that occurred last evening, have been shifted to Panjtarni. The evacuation continued till 3.38 am.
"No yatri is left on the track. About 15,000 people have been safely shifted till now," the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) spokesperson said.
A small BSF team is also deployed at the Neelgrath helipad to assist the pilgrims coming from the holy cave.
A Border Security Force (BSF) spokesperson said doctors and medical staff of the paramilitary force treated nine patients who were critically injured in the floods.
About 150 yatris stayed at the BSF camp created in Panjtarni on Friday night and 15 patients have been airlifted to Baltal on Saturday morning, he said.
"They have been rescued to lower altitude Neelgrath base camp," he later added.
Six pilgrims were evacuated by Army's helicopters on Saturday as rescue operations continued through the night near the holy cave shrine.
"Air rescue operations were started this morning as six pilgrims were evacuated. The military medical teams are receiving patients and casualties at the Nilagrar helipad for onward evacuation," an official said on Saturday.
The Army official said mountain rescue teams and lookout patrols were on the job to search for the missing people.
On Friday, an official on the ground said about 40 people were missing while five had been rescued.
The Union Territory administration and the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) gave out four telephone numbers to help the families of those who might have been affected due to the cloudburst.
The yatra that began on June 30 has been suspended following the tragedy and a decision on its resumption will be taken after rescue operations get over, a senior administration official had said.