Raising concerns for the authorities, at least 74 pilgrims have died while undertaking this year’s Char Dham yatra, which started early this month, owing to health-related reasons, mostly cardiac arrest, according to officials in Uttarakhand.
The four pilgrim sites part of the yatra are Yamunotri and Gangotri in Uttarkashi and Kedarnath in Rudraprayag and Badrinath in Chamoli districts. According to the state health department, 37 pilgrims died on their way to Kedarnath, 20 to Yamunotri, 13 to Badrinath, and four to Gangotri.
After the Char Dham yatra started on May 3, over 3.35 lakh devotees visited Kedarnath, 3.15 lakh Badrinath, 1.49 lakh Yamunotri and over 2 lakhs Gangotri till Wednesday. Dr Shailja Bhatt, director-general (medical, health and family welfare), said the number of pilgrims taking the trip is much higher this year, mainly because in 2020 and 2021, the yatra got cancelled because of the Covid pandemic.
Talking to The Indian Express, Dr KS Chauhan, chief medical officer of Uttarkashi district, said all the pilgrim deaths reported in the district were of devotees travelling on foot. “There is an elevation on these trekking paths and when people keep walking, they do not realise the sudden decrease in oxygen level. People keep moving without enough rest and then complain of dizziness. Most people who died had problems like hypertension, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Some also had recovered from Covid in the past years,” he said.
“After a high number of people reported having medical problems, we started intense screening on May 5. We are checking pilgrims for blood pressure, sugar level, oxygen level and their medical history… We have also increased the number of medical screening centres along with life-support ambulances,” Chauhan said, adding that those having a possible medical condition rarely listen when advised to avoid the trip.
In 2019 around 38 lakh pilgrims undertook the yatra and over 90 of them died. And 112 and 102 pilgrims died during the yatras in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
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