16 Amarnath pilgrims dead in truck accident

Jammu: At least 16 people on their way back from the Amarnath pilgrimage were killed and 20 injured, three of them critically, when the truck in which they were travelling rolled into a gorge in Jammu and Kashmir’s Samba district in the early hours of today.

The truck skidded off the road and fell into the gorge near Pappad Morh in Samba district, about 75 km from here, past midnight, police said.

Most of those travelling in the truck were cooks of a langar (free kitchen) at Baltal, a police official said. They belonged to Delhi, Ghaziabad and Hapur.

“The driver lost control of the truck while negotiating a deep curve during the darkness of night,” Raju, one of those injured in the accident and admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital here, told reporters.

According to Deputy Medical Superintendent Bharat Bhushan, the condition of three of the injured is critical. He said most of the deaths were caused due to head injuries as the terrain was hard and rocky.

This is second major accident involving Amarnath pilgrims. On July 15, at least 15 pilgrims were killed in a similar accident in Digdol on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway.

Lakhs of pilgrims perform the annual Amarnath pilgrimage at the Himalayan cave shrine, situated at height of 13,500 feet, which has natural ice stalagmite believed to be an icon of Lord Shiva.

Last year, 107 pilgrims died performing the pilgrimage either at base camp or during the arduous trek. Most of these deaths were caused either by slipping and falling down the gorge or due to cardiac arrest. This year, the toll of those who have died, excluding those killed in accidents, is close to 100.

The pilgrimage began June 25 and will conclude Aug 2, the full moon day of the Shravan month of the Hindu calendar. The number of pilgrims this year has so far reached 600,000.

IANS

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