Concerned over the rising number of deaths of Amarnath pilgrims en-route cave shrine, Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday appealed to the pilgrims to undergo health check-ups at Baltal and Pahalgam base-camps before embarking on arduous journey to the 3,888-meter high shrine.

The death toll, primarily due to cardiac arrest, on Friday touched 72.

State Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma said that pilgrims should follow travel advisory of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) and get themselves checked before leaving.

“I request all the pilgrims to access our health facilities, including those at the base camp at Baltal and Pahalgam, before starting the trek to holy cave shrine,” Mr. Sharma said.

Although, 105 people 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 resulted in criticism and protests from various organisation.

BJP and Puri Shankaracharya have flayed the SASB and state government for the deaths.

Cardiac arrest caused by rarefied oxygen at high altitudes has been one of the most common causes of death among the pilgrims.

In a message, published in various newspapers onfriday, the minister said: “The facilities available at these medical camps include oxygen cylinders, all necessary medications, all needed diagnostics, in additional to doctors and trained para-medics.”

It needs to be re-emphasised that ignoring any symptoms particularly chest tightness or pain, congestion, cough, inability to walk, shortness of breath, restlessness need quick medical attention, as they may be life saving if promptly attended, he said.

The annual Amarnath yatra commenced on June 25 from the twin tracks from Baltal and Pahalgam and was going on smoothly although the weather remained cloudy on Friday.

As many as 4,23,681 pilgrims have visited the cave shrine till last evening.