At least 16 Amarnath pilgrims, including two women, died and 28 others were injured when a bus they were travelling in skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge in Ramban district on Srinagar-Jammu highway on Sunday, officials said.
The deceased belonged to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Assam, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, they added.
A State Road Transport Corporation bus (JK02Y-0594) was part of 18th batch of Amarnath pilgrims which left from Bhagwati Nagar base camp in Jammu this morning along with convoy of 141 vehicles towards Kashmir.
"As soon as the ill-fated bus having 45 people, including driver and conductor, on board reached near Nachlana, one of its tyres burst following which the driver lost control over it and the vehicle rolled down into 150-foot embankment of Bislari Nullah," said an official.
Jammu range inspector general of police SDS Jamwal told Greater Kashmir that initial reports have confirmed that "tyre burst" led to the accident.
"A case has been registered and we will look into all aspects of this during investigation," he said.
A police spokesperson said 28 yatris were moved to sub-district hospital Banihal where from seriously injured pilgrims were airlifted to Government Medical College and Hospital Jammu and Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences Srinagar for specialised treatment.
15 deceased identified
Police identified fifteen deceased persons as Pawan Kumar son of Dina Nath Parshad resident of Danapur Patna- Bihar, Rohit Kumar son of Shyam Prashad of Patna- Bihar, Sagar Kumar son of Pardeep Kumar of Janghipath-Bihar, Dileep Kumar son of Dina Nath of Darapur Patna –Bihar, Meena Devi wife of Johar Sahu of Chanakpur –Bihar, Ravinder Singh son of Rajinder Singh of Sherpur Modi Nagar Ghaziabad- Uttar Pradesh, Ravinder Singh son of Raghubir Singh of Indira Puri Ghaziabad- Uttar Pradesh, Sikander son of Pritam of Shahpur, Modinagar Ghaziabad- Uttar Pradesh, Salinder Singh son of Bal Ram of Berubin-Rajasthan, Sashi Paul Sani son of Ganpat Sani of Nawalgarh Rajasthan, Rahul Kumar son of Dalip Kumar of Gola Pur, Orissa, Rachit Sharma son of H L Sharma of Hauz Khas, New Delhi and Chander Kumar son of Madan Lal of Purani Nabhi district, Patiala Punjab. Besides the driver Darshan Singh son of Saju Ram of Bishnah, Jammu also lost his life in accident. Police said a body of female pilgrim is still unidentified.
Out of the 28 injured persons 20 were shifted to Government Medical College Jammu while eight were shifted to SKIMS Soura, Srinagar, the spokesman added.
As soon as the news of the accident spread, locals and soldiers launched a massive rescue operation. The locals even pressed into service their private vehicles to ferry injured pilgrims to Banihal hospital, around 13 kms from the accident site.
The Indian Air Force pressed into service its two MI-17 helicopters to airlift the injured pilgrims from Ramban to Jammu and Srinagar hospitals.
8 ADMITTED AT SKIMS
Eight injured Amarnath pilgrims are undergoing treatment at SKIMS. "We are evaluating all of them. While six yatris have minor injuries and are stable, two seem to have serious injuries. They are in an unconscious state," a doctor told Greater Kashmir late in the evening.
Medical superintendent SKIMS Dr Syed Amin Tabish said at this time, the priority is to carry out all investigations before starting the treatment.
The pilgrims admitted at SKIMS are Chand Pati Devi wife of Silla Matfi of Denapore Sultanpure, Satish Rawal son of Satpal of Panipat Haryana, Depakar Dass son of late Bipinder Dass of Assam Guwahati, Narish Dudeja son of Om Prakash of Laerual Haryana, Sutvinder Tewari son of Radha Krishan of Gawlior MP, Vijay Kumar son of Sooraj Narayan of Sarfa Bihar, Chetan Mishra son of Rajender Mishra of Fariadabad Haryana and Devi Singh son of Durga Ram of Simla Himachal.
J&K POLICE SET-UP HELPLINE
For any queries and information regarding the injured pilgrims, police have established a helpline and asked people to contact SDPO Zadibal on 9419000200, SHO Soura on 9596770587, SHO Karan Nagar on 9596770527 or Police Control Room Kashmir on 0194-2506504-07.
Jammu helpline numbers for the information regarding the injured persons are GMC Bakshi Nagar Jammu 0191-2532000, 2560401, GMC Jammu 2585444, D.C. Jammu 2571912, SHO Bakshi Nagar 9419151378, SDPO 9622222449.
GOVERNOR VISITS SPOT
An official spokesman said that on learning about the unfortunate accident Governor NN Vohra, Chairman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, immediately flew to Banihal along with BB Vyas, Chief Secretary; Jammu and Kashmir Police Chief SP Vaid, and Umang Narula, SASB Chief Executive Officer to see the rescue operations being carried out by the district administration Ramban with the help of Indian Air Force.
Governor also visited the Banihal Sub-District Hospital where, after discussion with the Chief Secretary and the attending doctors, he directed that the bodies of the 16 dead pilgrims be transported to Jammu from where, after embalming and other formalities, the bodies would be sent by the civil airlines to the hometowns of the deceased.
Governor drove to the site of the accident.
Appreciating the prompt relief provided by a local NGO "Youth Against Evils, Banihal", who rescued the injured pilgrims, in co-ordination with the District Administration, Governor sanctioned an amount of Rs. 5 lakh for this NGO, for strengthening their humanitarian endeavours.
Governor expressed his deep grief over this accident and conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families. On behalf of the Shrine Board, he announced relief of Rs 3 lakh to the next of kin of those killed in the accident and Rs.1 lakh to those who had suffered injuries.
Governor directed B B Vyas to immediately ensure that no SRTC bus is deployed on long distance duty, particularly across the Banihal, which has not been thoroughly checked and certified fit for operation by a responsible ranking SRTC officer.
GEELANI EXPRESSES GRIEF
Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Geelani expressed deep sorrow over deaths in the accident and expressed solidarity with the bereaved. "Increase in such accidents is very much a cause concern for everyone," he said.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has expressed deep shock and immense grief over the death of Amarnath Yatris in a tragic road accident.
The Chief Minister conveyed her heart-felt sympathies to the bereaved families in their hour of grief and has prayed for eternal peace to the departed souls. She also wished speedy recovery to those injured in the accident.
She asked the divisional administration Jammu and the district administration Ramban to intensify the rescue operations at the spot and ensure best possible treatment to the injured pilgrims.
The Chief Minister has directed the Divisional Commissioner, Jammu to immediately release the ex gratia amount in favor of the next of kin of the deceased. She hailed the locals, the army, the security forces, police and the civil administration for rushing to the accident spot and launching the rescue operation to save as many lives possible.
National Conference President Farooq Abdullah and Working President Omar Abdullah expressed profound grief and shock over the tragic accident. Extending their heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families, the Abdullahs prayed for the speedy and completely recovery of those who have sustained injuries in the accident and asked the administration to provide every required assistance to the injured and the bereaved families.
Meanwhile, NC leaders led by Devender Singh Rana, Provincial President visited the Government Medical College Hospital, Jammu to enquire about the condition of injured pilgrims.
Member Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and senior congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad expressed shock over the accident.
He termed the road accident in Banihal as unfortunate and he expressed sympathy with the bereaved family. He prayed for the eternal peace to the departed soul.
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh, expressed shock and grief over the accident.
He conveyed his deepest sympathies to the bereaved families and prayed for eternal peace to the departed souls. He also wished speedy recovery to those injured in the accident.
Minister for Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCS&CA) and Information Choudhary Zulfkar Ali visited Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu to enquire about the condition of Amarnath pilgrims who were injured in today's tragic bus accident.
Vice Chairman, State Advisory Board for the Welfare, Development of Scheduled Castes, Bhushan Lal Dogra, MLC Romesh Arora, Divisional Commissioner Jammu MK Bhandari, Deputy Commissioner Jammu Kumar Rajeev Ranjan besides other senior officers of police and district administration accompanied the Minister during his visit to the hospital.
Minister for Animal, Sheep Husbandry and Fisheries, Adul Ghani Kohli, and Advisor to Chief Minister Amitabh Mattoo, too expressed deep anguish over the death of Amarnath Yatris in a tragic road accident.
Minister for Social Welfare, ARI & Trainings and Science & Technology and MLA Handwara, Sajad Gani Lone expressed grief over the tragic road accident and expressed sympathy with the bereaved families.
CPI (M) senior leader and MLA Kulgam, M Y Tarigami Sunday expressed shock over the tragic road accident. Expressing sympathy with the grieved families, Tarigami prayed for the patience of the bereaved families to bear this repairable loss. Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) president and MLA Khansahib, Hakim Muhammad Yasin Sunday expressed grief over the loss of lives in the accident.
Hakim Yasin prayed for the patience of the bereaved families to bear this repairable loss.
Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) president and former agriculture minister, Ghulam Hassan Mir expressed grief over the tragic road accident. Expressing sympathy with the bereaved families, Mir prayed for the patience of the bereaved families to bear this repairable loss.
SRTC ORDERS PROBE
Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) has ordered an inquiry into the tragic road accident on Srinagar-Jammu highway in Ramban district.
"An in-house inquiry committee has been constituted to look into the circumstances that led to this tragic accident involving an SRTC bus carrying the Amarnath Yatris," Mir Afroz Ahmad, Managing Director SRTC said.
"The vehicle was 2012 model and the driver had more than 15 years of service," Afroz claimed, adding that the vehicle was put to Yatra duty after satisfactory mechanical check up. He said the inquiry committee has been asked to submit its report within two days.