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35 killed, 22 injured as overloaded bus rolls into gorge in Kishtwar; Governor, PM express grief

Men of the Army and police were engaged in the rescue operations and they were facing difficulty in fetching the bodies from the cliff like gorge.

SP Sharma | Jammu |

At least 35 passengers were killed and 22 injured on Monday morning when a minibus in which they were travelling plunged into a deep gorge in the Kishtwar district of Jammu.

Reports said that the overloaded vehicle was carrying more than 57 persons when the driver lost control over the bus and it plunged into a deep gorge. This is the fourth major accident in the area during the current year. As many as 176 persons had lost their lives in a string of bus mishaps in the Doda-Kishtwar region last year.

Deputy Commissioner, Kishtwar, Angrez Singh Raina, confirmed the casualties and said the rescue operation is on to retrieve the bodies.

A magisterial enquiry has been ordered into the mishap. Reports said that the overloaded mini-bus was on its way from Keshwan to Kishtwar.

The overloaded mini-bus was not stopped at any of the traffic police checkpoints, said reports. Men of the Army and police were engaged in the rescue operations and they were facing difficulty in fetching the bodies from the cliff like gorge.

A spokesman of the Army said that two Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) of the Army were rushed to the accident spot to evacuate the injured and provide relief.

The Indian Air Force also swung into action and flew 12 critically injured persons to the medical college hospital at Jammu in two sorties of its MI-17 helicopter for treatment. Nine attendants of the injured were also flown to Jammu in the helicopter. Four other critically injured were brought to Jammu in a Pawan Hans helicopter of the civil administration.

Reports said that the ill-fated bus, bearing registration number JK-17 6787, skidded into the gorge near Sirgawari Keshwan village.

Expressing grief over the loss of lives, Governor Satya Pal Malik announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs.5 lakh to kin of each of the killed. The Governor said that all the reasons for such incidents will be probed thoroughly and strong decisions will be taken in the next SAC meeting to ensure strict action against those responsible for such avoidable incidents.

A Raj Bhavan spokesperson said that a few months ago, the Governor had directed officers of the Transport Department to take away unfit vehicles and untrained drivers off the road. The Governor observed that most of the accidents take place due to careless and untrained drivers who drive without any regard for rules and regulations and become the reason for losing so many precious lives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mourned the loss of lives. He tweeted; “The accident in Jammu and Kashmirs Kishtwar is heart-wrenching. We mourn all those who lost their lives and express condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover at the earliest.”

Home Minister Amit Shah, Minister of State in PMO Jitendra Singh, former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, MP Farooq Abdullah and PCC chief GA Mir have also mourned the loss of lives in the accident.

Jitendra Singh, who represents the area in the Lok Sabha, got in touch with the district authorities and asked them to take every possible step for rescue and relief to the injured persons.