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108 deaths in 27 days: What's killing so many pilgrims to Char Dahm shrines

Dehradun: Consider this: 108 pilgrims dead in less than a month since the Char Dham yatra began on May 3 this year, 90 death recorded during the entire six-month period of the pilgrimage in 2019; 102 deaths in 2018 (whole season); 112 in 2017. The figure for 2020 and 2021 was significantly lower as the yatra was curtailed due to the pandemic. As a rattled health system and administration look for answers, the question everyone is asking is: what's killing so many pilgrims to the Char Dham shrines this year?
Around 12 lakh have been  on the yatra so far in 2022. In comparison, 32 lakh pilgrims attended the pilgrimage in 2019 and 26 lakh in 2018.
Most deaths this year have been attributed to cardiac arrests at the shrine towns, situated at altitudes ranging between 10,000 ft and 12,000 ft.
However, doctors and experts looking for reasons behind this sharp jump said Covid- or its lingering after- effects- could be a possible factor.
"Almost 95% of the deaths and health emergencies that we are seeing at Kedarnath this time can directly or indirectly be attributed to Covid. We are saying so based on details provided by their kin to us," said Dr Pradeep Bhardwaj, president, Six Sigma Healthcare. In 2013, his agency had been assigned by the state government to "take care" of pilgrims at the Kedarnath shrine. They have been at it since then.

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