Srinagar: The death of 67 Amarnath pilgrims, mostly due to cardiac arrest, in just 17 days of the yatra to the holy cave in south Kashmir Himalayas has left the Amarnath Shrine Board authorities worried which has asked to address all health-related issues.
    
Although 105 persons died during the 45-day yatra last year – which was highest due to natural causes, the high number of deaths in the first two weeks of the pilgrimage this year has the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), headed by Governor N N Vohra, worried.
    
"As many as 67 yatris died during the ongoing pilgrimage, mostly due to cardiac arrest, during the first 17 days," an official of the Shrine Board said.
    
Cardiac arrest caused by rarefied oxygen at high altitude has been one of the most common natural causes of death among the pilgrims.
    
Officials of the state Health Department, which is running dozens of medical camps along the twin yatra routes, said in many cases the pilgrims were found to be in possession of fake fitness certificates.
    
"We have seen cases where some people are suffering from diabetes and respiratory problems. This is not a place for them to come but we cannot stop them as they come with fitness certificates issued by medical practitioners," an official of the Health Department said.
    
The official said the mounting death toll of the pilgrims prompted Vohra, who is also chairman of the SASB, to direct all authorities to take steps to address health-related issues.
    
The Governor has already convened two emergency meetings on pilgrim deaths since the 39-day annual pilgrimage to the shrine housing the naturally formed ice-shivlingam commenced on June 25 from the twin tracks of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district.
    
The yatra will end on August 2, coinciding with Raksha Bandhan.
    
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who is facing lot questions over the issue on his Twitter account, attributed the deaths to old age, poor fitness and lack of acclimatization.
    
"It’s on account of age, poor fitness and lack of any acclimatisation," Omar wrote on twitter.

(Agencies)

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