JAMMU, June 23: Pilgrimage to Holy Cave shrine of resumed at 7 am today after night long suspension due to forest fire that spread to both tracks ahead of Adh-Kunwari. The fire has been controlled on the tracks while it was still raging in adjacent forests.
Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) authorities were anticipating that forest fire would be controlled with rains. However, the SMVDSB staff was taking steps to ensure that the fire didn’t spread again towards the tracks. For the purpose, water was continuously being poured on the tracks.
Official sources said the fire was controlled on the tracks, both alternate and traditional, from Adh-Kunwari to Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan by 5 am today by a large number of staff including safai karamcharis deputed by the Shrine Board last night after the fire spread to tracks leading to suspension of yatra.
“The yatra today proceeded smoothly on both traditional and alternate tracks though there were few patches where smoke was still engulfing the tracks at Him Koti on alternate Adh-Kunwari-Bhawan track and Hathi Matha on traditional track”, sources said.
The SMVDSB authorities had suspended yatra to Holy Cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi ji at 7 pm yesterday from both Katra, the base camp of shrine, and Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan besides Adh-Kunwari. A number of pilgrims were stranded at Katra, Adh-Kunwari and Bhawan as the forest fire had spread to tracks at Him Koti and Hathi Matha.
The SMVDSB staff poured water on the tracks and finally controlled it in early hours of this morning leading to resumption of the yatra. All stranded pilgrims reached their destinations safely, sources said, adding the SMVDSB staff was still engaged on both the tracks to ensure that fire didn’t manage to reach the tracks once again.
“Fires were still raging in the forests along Hathi Matha and Him Koti besides Bhairon Ghati”, sources said, adding there were no measures to control the fire in dense forests of Trikuta Hills.
The forest fires would be controlled by the rains only.
Today, nearly 35,000 pilgrims left for Holy Cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi ji from Katra. The pilgrims stranded at the base camp of Katra last night due to suspension of pilgrimage were also cleared by early this morning, sources said.
The SMVDSB authorities were closely monitoring the situation on both the tracks especially the sensitive points where forest fires were still raging, sources said.