At least 16 dead, dozens missing after flash flood in Kashmir


Rescuers help a man to move to safer(L), carry a victim following a cloudburst near the Amarnath cave shrine in Kashmir on Saturday. Reuters

Sixteen people were killed in Kashmir, with rescuers searching for dozens more missing, after flash floods swept away hundreds of tents near a popular Hindu pilgrimage site, officials said on Saturday.

Around 10,000 people were camped near the remote Amarnath temple, nestled in a Himalayan mountain cave, when a sudden cloudburst triggered a deluge.

Frequent whirring helicopter sorties were evacuating the dead and an unknown number of panicked and injured pilgrims from the Baltal base camp to the north of the shrine.

“We found 16 bodies so far and at least 40 are missing,” an official from the state disaster response agency said.

“Security forces and all the rescue teams are looking for the missing and injured,” the official said on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorised to speak to media.

The army said it had deployed two infantry battalions and special forces units to help with the search alongside search and rescue dog squads.

They have so far taken 63 people with injuries away for treatment, including to a field hospital set up by the army in mountains near the shrine.

Rescuers were using handheld thermal imaging devices to look for victims who might be trapped under the mud, the army statement said.

Vivek, a pilgrim who escaped the destructive downpour, said that some of his family and members of the group he travelled to the site with were still missing.

“We were a group of 150 and 30 of us are still stuck up there. Their phones are switched off.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several senior government officials expressed their grief over the loss of life.

“Condolences to the bereaved families,” Modi tweeted late Friday.

Manoj Sinha, New Delhi’s top administrator in the region, said: “Our priority is to save the lives of people. Instructions have been issued to provide all necessary assistance to pilgrims.”

Teams of rescuers from India’s military, paramilitary and police as well as disaster management officials combed through the slippery mountain tracks and used thermal imaging devices, sniffer dogs and through-the-wall radars to locate dozens of missing.



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