Thirty five people, including two children — aged 45 days and 6 years — were killed and 16 others were injured on Monday morning when an overloaded minibus skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)’s Kishtwar district.
According to officials familiar with developments, the vehicle was carrying 51 people against its seating capacity of 22-23 passengers. Sources said the minibus left Keshwan town around 6.45 am for Kishtwar, about 40 km away. Roughly around 45 minutes later, it rolled off a single-lane stretch of road, they added. The J&K police, Army and locals pitched in for the rescue operation and the injured were rushed to the district hospital in Kishtwar. Fourteen people with serious injuries were airlifted to the Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu by Indian Air Force MI-17 helicopters.
Three year-old Adeeba from Keshwan lost all the members of her family in the accident while another six-year-old boy was injured and his mother had died. At least four families lost two members each.
Kishtwar Deputy Commissioner Angrez Singh and Inspector General of Police (Traffic) Alok Kumar have ordered separate inquiries into the cause of the accident. This is the second major accident over the past nine months on the Kishtwar-Keshwan road.
The accident in Jammu and Kashmir’s 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.
Governor Satya Pal Malik announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased. Most accidents occur due to careless and untrained drivers who operate without any regard for rules, he observed. “All the reasons for such incidents will be probed thoroughly and strong decisions will be taken in the next meeting of the State Administrative Council to ensure strict action against those responsible for such avoidable incidents,” he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted their condolences. “The accident in Jammu and Kashmir’s 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,” Modi tweeted.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah lay the onus on the administration. “successive administrations are all guilty of the same thing – accident; high death toll; condolence statement; announcement of ex-gratia relief & we repeat the cycle the next time an accident happens. The next government in J&K HAS TO break this cycle & end this indifference,” he tweeted.
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