SRINAGAR: In the tragic road accident, 16 Amarnath bound pilgrims were killed on Sunday when their bus skidded off the road and fell into a gorge almost 100 feet down, reports reaching from Banihal said.
The bus that was part of the Day 17 Amarnath convoy from Jammu crossed Ramban in the afternoon. Sometime later, it was approaching a sharp bend, slightly elevated, when; most possibly it went out of control and fell into a gorge. The possible cause for the imbalance and getting out of control was the tyre puncture. The spot where the accident was reported is Nachilana, 11 kms from Banihal on way to Ramban, not far away from the local army camp.
The bus was carrying 43 pilgrims and various others who own and run the bus. While 16 are reported killed, all others have survived injured; most of them are seriously injured. Almost 19 seriously injured pilgrims were airlifted to Jammu and five to SKIMS in Soura. Two are still in Banihal hospital. Reports said eight have somehow survived with minor injuries and are in a position to talk and offer details. Nobody was in a position to offer any details about the fate of the SRTC driver and the bus conductor.
Individuals who were on the spot said the accident is do devastating that there is possibility of the toll going up further. The bus has rolled down the gorge and has been dented seriously by the massive boulders on the impact, they said.
A top police officer said all the injured were shifted to Banihal and Ramban hospitals. They were in a bus that state run STRC owns and runs. Its registration number is JK02V-0594. Officials said it will take them time to identify and offer details about the accident and its inmates. “Right now, we are trying to send them to the hospitals,” one officer said. So for, some officials said at least two are from Rajasthan. Nothing much is known about others.
Local resident were the first to reach the spot and start rescue. They were joined by army, CRPF and police later. The entire highway was disturbed because of the accident. The people had to use the ropes to create a sort of alternative support for pulling the injured up. The dead were kept on the banks of the rivulet and the injured were physically moved up to the main road.
In order to take care of the situation, governor N N Vohra has landed in town with top army commanders. Vohra heads all the Hindu shrine boards in the state. The crisis has led to the literal closure of the highway that was otherwise facing serious crisis because of landslides.
Health authorities have shifted most of the basic requirements to the spot and created an almost open air center to offer the first aid to the survivors. After basic first aid, they are being driven to the hospital. Citizen journalism is highly active and is the main source of information right now when the officials are busy in the operations.
Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh had personally gone to the cave shrine on Sunday. “Visited the Sh Amarnath ji shrine today to review the administrative arrangements for the safety and security of the yatris. Got a chance to participate in the aarti also and I sincerely thanks to all the yatris for their kind cooperation,” Dr Singh said. Almost 15 minutes later, he went to facebook again to say: “Deeply Shocked and saddened to know the about the bus accident carrying Amarnath yatris. My condolences to families who have lost their family members. Directed the administration to airlift the injured immediately to the Jammu hospital and rescue operation under process.”
Earlier Prime Minister Modi offered his condolences using the twitter: “Extremely pained by the loss of lives of Amarnath Yatris due to a bus accident in J&K. My thoughts are with the families of the deceased.”