Baltal cloudbursts: 2 dead, 7 missing, 1,500 shifted on Amarnath route
Massive multiple cloudbursts damaged the route of the Amarnath Yatra in Baltal area of north Jammu and Kashmir and left two dead, nine injured and seven others missing.
Authorities evacuated thousands of pilgrims after the cloudbursts late on Friday night in Baltal area, 90 km north of Srinagar.
The Baltal route to Amarnath – the shortest route as pilgrims can reach the cave shrine after a 14-km trek – was hit at three places between Baltal Gate and Rangamor.
The Indian Army's quick action team launched rescue and relief operations in the area. Around 780 civilians and 1,500 pilgrims were moved to safer places.
The bodies of two minors – Pooja, 13, and Vikram , 12, both residents of Rajasthan – have been recovered so far. "Nine persons were injured," said Col Brijesh Pandey, the Srinagar-based army spokesperson.
The seven missing people were identified as Maiser Ahmed, Anil Sahu, Ashaq Sahid Mir, Reyaz Ahmed, Mushtaq Ahmed, Ramdevi and Fayaz Ahmed Mir. Two of them are not local residents.
A vast stretch of Baltal was flooded with mud, slush and water. Dozens of vehicles, including those used by pilgrims, were hit by landslides. At least 12 shops were washed away.
Senior army officials and engineers travelled to the area to assess the situation. The district administration started a massive operation to trace the missing.
On July 16, multiple cloudbursts hit the same mountainous region and left two dead. A large area was affected by the deluge and landslides then.
On July 12 multiple cloudbursts hit south Jammu and Kashmir, including the Yatra area of Pahalgam. Two people died in the area.
The Kashmir region is witnessing unprecedented cloudbursts in residential areas this year. North, south and central Kashmir have already witnessed many cloudbursts this month.
Shakil Romshoo, head of earth sciences at the University of Kashmir, said: "The Kashmir Valley will witness cloudbursts till September. It occurs due to monsoon currents that originate from the Bay of Bengal. It mixes with local clouds abruptly as mountains act as a barrier."
The reason for casualties is that people have started living in areas vulnerable to cloudbursts, he said. He did not rule out the possibility of cloudbursts in the plains of Srinagar.