Some 15 000 people have been airlifted to safety after severe flash floods swept through makeshift camps during an annual Hindu pilgrimage to an icy Himalayan cave in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The cave is located at an altitude of 4.1 km (2.5 miles) and is covered with snow most of the year except for the short summer period when it is open to pilgrims.
According to officials, a cloudburst hit the Amarnath Cave Temple near Pahalgam in Jammu and Kashmir, about 141 km (87 miles) from Srinagar, at around 17:30 LT on Friday, July 8, 2022, producing destructive flash floods.
Survivors said water mixed with mud, sand and rocks suddenly gushed through the camp, sweeping away men, women and their belonging.
“Everything was buried under a mountain of mud and rocks,” one of them said.1
Early Saturday morning, officials confirmed at least 16 people have been killed, 65 were injured and at least 40 were still missing.
About 15 000 people have been airlifted to safety.
The pilgrimage began on June 30 and tens of thousands of devotees have already visited the cave where Hindus worship a naturally formed ice stalagmite as an incarnation of Shiva, the god of destruction and regeneration.
Hundreds of pilgrims have died in the past due to exhaustion and exposure to harsh weather during a 3-day journey through the icy mountains.
In 1996, thousands were caught in a freak snowstorm, leading to more than 250 fatalities.
1 Thousands rescued at flood-hit Hindu pilgrimage in Kashmir – AP – July 9, 2022
Featured image credit: ITBP
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