At least 13 persons have been killed after a cloudburst triggered flash floods near the holy cave shrine of Amarnath.
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.
NDRF Director General Atul Karwal told PTI that one NDRF team was based in the affected area even as two more teams from nearby locations of Barari Marg and Panchtarni have reached there.
He said, "We have three teams comprising about 75 rescuers in action right now."
Meanwhile, Amarnath yatra, which began on June 30, has been temporarily suspended in view of the tragedy, said a J&K administration official.
The official added that a decision on its resumption will be taken after rescue operations end.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish over the incident.
Anguished by the cloud burst near Shree Amarnath cave. Condolences to the bereaved families. Spoke to @manojsinha_ Ji and took stock of the situation. Rescue and relief operations are underway. All possible assistance is being provided to the affected.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 8, 2022
Union Home Minister Amit Shah directed central forces and Jammu and Kashmir administration to ensure swift rescue operations. He said in a Tweet in Hindi that he has spoken to J&K LG Manoj Sinha to take stock of the situation.
"NDRF, CRPF, BSF and local administration are engaged in the rescue work. Saving people's lives is our priority. I wish all the devotees well," said Shah in a tweet.
Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said he is closely monitoring the situation and instructed all concerned to provide necessary assistance to the pilgrims.
"Deeply pained by unfortunate incident of cloudburst at Shri Amarnathji holy cave, in which precious lives have been lost. I send my heartfelt condolences to bereaved families. Rescue operation by NDRF, SDRF, BSF, Army, JKP & Shrine board admin is in progress," said Sinha in a tweet.
(With PTI inputs)