SRINAGAR, July 6: Four pilgrims and an army soldier died of cardiac arrest enroute to the Amarnath shrine in south Kashmir, taking the death toll in the ongoing pilgrimage to 37, officials said Friday.
The pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine is one of the holiest for Hindus, who visit the cave to worship the Shivlingam or an ice stalagmite in the cave.
Hindu devotees brave cold weather, including rains and snow, to reach the shrine situated at 3880 metres above sea level in Kashmir Himalayas.
The soldier identified as Naik Sant Lal, a resident of Haryana, collapsed during patrolling in Brarimarg area along Baltal-cave route, the officials said. Lal was rushed to hospital where he was declared brought dead.
Three women devotees, Gori Rani, 35, and Santosh, 45, both hailing from Punjab, and Barti, 55, of Andhra Pradesh died at Baltal and Brarimarg last evening.
Another pilgrim, Ram Krishan, 62, of Haryana, died at Dumail on the Baltal-cave route yesterday, the officials said.
Most of the deaths during the pilgrimage so far have been caused by cardiac arrest
Recently, Jammu and Kashmir governor N.N. Vohra appealed to all intending pilgrims to avoid high altitude holy trek if they are having any medical problems.
After 107 pilgrims lost their lives during the pilgrimage in 2011 due to medical reasons, the shrine board has made medical certificates mandatory for the intending Yatris this year.
The annual yatra, which commenced on June 25 from the twin routes of Baltal in Ganderbal district and traditional Pahhalgam in Anantnag district, is going on smoothly.
More than two hundred thousand Hindus have paid obeisance at the cave shrine so far. This year, authorities expect more than half a million devotees to perform pilgrimage to the shrine.