Char Dham yatra: 20 pilgrims die in a week, officials say most deaths due to cardiac-related issues

Char Dham yatra: 20 pilgrims die in a week, officials say most deaths due to cardiac-related issues

India News

Raising concerns for the authorities, 20 pilgrims have died on their way to the Char Dham yatra that started last week.

The four pilgrim sites part of the yatra are Yamunotri and Gangotri in Uttarkashi district, Kedarnath in Rudraprayag and Badrinath in Chamoli.

According to the state health department data, 10 pilgrims died while on their way to Yamunotri, 6 to Kedarnath, 3 to Gangotri and 1 to Badrinath, during the yatra that started on May 3.

A majority of those who died were above 60 years of age, suffered from cardiac-related issues and faced difficulties going to the shrines situated at altitudes ranging between 10,000 ft and 12,000 ft, according to officials.

Director General (DG), Medical Health & Family Welfare, Dr Shailja Bhatt said that the number of pilgrims taking the Char Dham yatra this year is much higher, mainly because the yatra did not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and also for the first time there was no upper limit of the number of people traveling the pilgrim sites.

Rudraprayag Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr BK Shukla also said that the number of tourists this year is much higher than in 2019 when the yatra was organised the last time. According to him, around 70,000 tourists have already arrived in Kedarnath so far.

Talking to The Indian Express, Dr KS Chauhan, CMO Uttarkashi district said that all the pilgrim deaths reported in the district are of devotees traveling on foot. Of the 13 pilgrims who died in Yamunotri and Gangotri in the past week, 11 were over 60 years of age, and two were between 45 and 50 years.

“There is an elevation on these trekking paths and when people keep walking, they do not realize the sudden decrease in oxygen level. People keep moving without enough rest and then complain of dizziness. Most of the people who died had problems like hypertension, diabetes and high blood pressure. Some also have recovered from Covid in the past years,” he said.

“After the high number of people having medical problems, we started intense screening from May 5. We are checking pilgrims for blood pressure, sugar level, oxygen level and their medical history. Those having a possible medical condition are recommended to not go ahead, but they rarely listen to us… We have also increased the number of medical screening centres along with life support ambulances,” added Chauhan.

Government officials in the state said that due to a high number of tourists coming a decision has been made to stop those coming without prior registration.

State Director General of Police (DGP) Ashok Kumar said that with no cap on the maximum number of tourists coming per day, there was a heavy crowd at all the four pilgrim sites on the first weekend. “Even though the numbers have decreased since Monday, we are expecting a heavy crowd the coming weekend too. Steps are being taken on the district level to tackle the same,” he said.

In 2019, around 38 lakh pilgrims undertook the yatra and over 90 pilgrims had died. In 2017 and 2018, 112 and 102 pilgrims respectively had died during the yatra.

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