SRINAGAR - Thousands of tourists, pilgrims and workers have started leaving the disputed region of Kashmir, after a security alert from the local government on Saturday.

A government order effectively called off holy Amarnath cave pilgrimage, asking the pilgrims and tourists to return home.

On Saturday, one senior government official in Kashmir said the advisory had caused panic and led to the departure of “thousands” of tourists, pilgrims and labourers.

The official did not give a specific number, but he said most of the 20,000 Hindu pilgrims and tourists and the more than 200,000 labourers were leaving the region. “The advisory has led to panic among people and the visitors here. Kashmir has seen worst times but we as government officials don’t know what is happening?,” said another local government official.

In a mood of anxiety, people sought to stock up on essentials and there were long queues outside petrol pumps, ATMs and medical shops in Srinagar city, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir state.

Around 60 international tourists arrived in Kashmir on Saturday, one of the local government officials said. The Indian advisory had cautioned tourists in general, but did not give any specific advice to foreign nationals.

Britain and Germany issued advisories on Saturday to their citizens discouraging them from travelling to Jammu & Kashmir. “Travellers staying in Kashmir (especially the Kashmir Valley and the Armanath Yatra Pilgrimage Route) are advised to leave Jammu and Kashmir,” the German ministry of foreign affairs said.

The UK’s foreign office advised against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exceptions of travel by air to Jammu and within the city, and within the region of Ladakh.