Thick snow cover posing new risk to Amarnath pilgrims
Thick snow cover at Kashmir's Amarnath cave shrine and on the route leading to it is posing multiple risks to pilgrims and has increased challenges before the organisers of the annual pilgrimage, due to start on June 25.
Combined with unpredictable weather and lack of oxygen at that altitude, the snow could multiply the dangers for pilgrims proceeding on a steep and slippery track, he said.
Governor NN Vohra, chairman of the shrine board, said: "Our prime concern is that the pilgrims should travel comfortably and that there should be not a single loss of life."
Last year, 117 people died during the pilgrimage, particularly from cardiac-related ailments. This year, the SASB has set up control rooms and made it mandatory for the pilgrims to submit physical fitness certificates before proceeding to the shrine.
Pilgrims, however, said they were ready to take the risk. "We will proceed to the shrine come what may," said Sunil Jandiyal, a devotee.
"We have seen worst situations in the past," said Vijay Kumar from Punjab, who is leading a convoy of trucks to set up a 'langar' or free kitchen at Baltal, a base camp en route to the cave shrine.
The pilgrimage will conclude on Aug 2.