Fire in Trikuta-hills leads to suspension of Vaishno Devi Yatra
After a raging forest fire took over Trikuta Hills, about 50 kms from Jammu, the Vaishno Devi Yatra was suspended on Wednesday. The shrine witnesses a footfall of 35,000 pilgrims a day from around the country and it peaks during the summer season. Following suspension, 10,000 pilgrims were left stranded at the Katra base camp, and another 3,000 moved to a safer place near Himkoti Marg.
Deputy Commissioner Reasi P Ramaswamy G said the fire broke out at new battery car track. The pilgrims were allowed to take the traditional route to the cave shrine, but battery car track was suspended. However, the registration counter was closed to avoid a rush on the road. By Wednesday afternoon, 20,000 devotees had registered themselves for the journey.
To douse the massive fire, two MI-17 helicopters of Indian Air Force and a high-utility helicopter were sent. The helicopters used under-slung bambi buckets to contain the fire. "It is being controlled by over 200 ground staff deployed by CRPF and the Shrine Board," an official of the shrine board said. He added there were no adverse reports and all pilgrims were safe.
"Though we didn't panic, there was a cause of concern when it was raging. At that time we were at Himkoti. The authorities have suspended the Yatra for our safety and we have to abide by their decision," a devotee told Hindustan Times.