The India Meteorological Department on Friday said that the deaths and destruction near the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir was due to a highly localised rain event.
According to weather scientists, the shrine reported 31 mm of rainfall between 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm on Friday. "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 the Regional Meteorological Centre in Srinagar.
The region above the Amarnath cave shrine received 28 mm of rainfall between 5.30 pm and 6.30 pm, a scientist from the IMD said.
Lotus said there was a possibility of a severe rainfall event in the higher reaches of the mountain near the cave shrine of Amarnath.
Cloudburst in Amarnath
At least 13 people were killed and tents and community kitchens near the shrine were swamped with mud and rocks that came hurtling down with a gush of water after a spell of rain.
The incident happened at Baltal, which is a base camp for the Amarnath pilgrimage, in the Ganderbal district of south Kashmir. Officials said the cloudburst struck around 5:30 pm on Friday amid heavy rainfall.
Several people have been wounded, who have been airlifted to Srinagar for treatment, said police.
Officials added that flash floods triggered by it also damaged 25 tents and three community kitchens.
Up to 40 people are feared missing and five people have been rescued so far.
The gushing waters hit the base camp outside the shrine, damaging 25 tents and three community kitchens where the pilgrims are served food, they said, adding that the Indian Army and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel have launched a rescue operation.
The Army’s northern command has said that it has deployed six rescue teams and helicopters to aid of pilgrims in the cloudburst-affected area.
Meanwhile, Amarnath yatra, which began on June 30, has been temporarily suspended in view of the tragedy, said a J&K administration official.