by Faiqa Masoodi

SRINAGAR: With yet another horrifying road accident sending 38 body bags to the length and breadth of Chenab Valley, the residents are demanding that the 200-meter stretch between Trungal to Assar be realigned at the earliest. They believe the stretch is seriously accident-prone owing to a “bad alignment”.

A Jammu-bound bus JK02CN-6555 failed to negotiate a curve near Trungal on Wednesday noon killing as many as 39 commuters so far. More than 20 have been evacuated to hospitals and some of them are critical. The bus had left Kishtwar at around 8:10 am with around 20 passengers and by the time it met the accident, it had almost 55 persons on board. The driver of the bus, Shakeel Ahmad, has also died in the accident.

“It was horrific,” Qazi Farooq, who operates his business from a spot barely 100 meters away from the spot of the accident, said. “The driver failed to control the bus at a curve and it rolled down and stopped on the old highway that is not in use.” The bus took various turns and stopped at the old highway, meters away from the Chenab River.

When the Kishtwar-Batote road was redone in 2009, the stretch between Assar and Trungal was taken up the slopes and the old highway’s stretch was left in disuse. Within days after the new stretch was opened, a tragic accident led to the killing of 25 passengers when a bus rolled down almost in the same way. “Since then, there have been many road accidents on this stretch. We lost an executive engineer on the same stretch last year,” Qazi said. “The engineers tell us that the alignment of this stretch is bad and if the government restores the stretch of the old highway, it would be better because it has better alignment.”

Between the two alignments of a 200-meter stretch between Assar and Trungal a lot of accidents are taking place, residents say.

Qazi said the news of the Wednesday accident spread like wildfire and all the residents of all the neighbouring villages rushed and started the rescue operation. There were volunteers from some NGOs, and the residents of Assar, Ganota and Trungal. “As is our unwritten protocol, we first located the injured and got them to the road and they were initially rushed to the Assar hospital. From there, some of them were shifted to Doda and plans are to take the seriously injured ones to Jammu,” he said.

Police and the volunteers shifted 21 injured to the GMC, Jammu. So far, four critically injured were airlifted to Jammu where three of them died. The only person still battling for life but critical is Arushi, a six-year-old girl, from Udhampur.

The process of identifying the dead is still a work in process. So far, the identity of the following passengers who died in the tragic accident has been established:

Raviti Devi, Nilhota Assar
Vishu Thakur, Nilhota
Chuni Lal Charota, Thandapani Assar
Davinder Singh, Dangroo Prem Nagar
Ashu Parihar, Beda Bhata
Renuka Parihar, Sarore
Raghnunath, Drabshalla, Kishtwar
Saksham Parihar, Beda Batha
Shakeel Ahmad Driver, Akram Abad Doda
P Kumar
Himanshu Raina, Manwa Bhaderwah
Rita Devi, Thathri
Subash Chander, Balgrand Kishtwar
Javed Ahmad, Mantalai Udhampur
Rajesh Kumar, Chatroo
Nizamuddin, Bihar
Swarna Devi, Bakna Mohalla Doda
Bhagwan Singh, Parmassa Malothal, Doda
Ratna Devi, Sarore Kishtwar
MD Azad, Bihar
Dharmingder Saghal, Dharmbound Batote
Mohammad Yousuf, Billawar
Anuradha, Goha Marmat
Jasveer, Chnati, Bhalessa
Simran Devi, Nagsani Kishtwar
Suresh Kumar Karsh, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh
Etwari Devi, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh
Ajgiya Bal, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh
Nadeem, Meerut UP
Dilshad, UP
Mohammad, Bihar
Roshan Lal, Thandapani Assar
Monesh Kumar, Plan Darshalla
Arun Kumar, Tatani Sarore
Sajol Kumar, Assar
Sunil Mahas, Thathri

“We are still driving the dead bodies from Assar to GM Doda,” Mohammad Imran of the NGO, Ababeel said. “There are many unfortunate individuals who are yet to be identified.” He said most of the victims of the accident who were from Kishtwar district have been shifted to their homes. “We just got a family that identified one of the persons who was unidentified.”

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi offered his condolences to the bereaved families. “An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of each deceased. Rs 50,000 would be given to the injured,” Modi announced on X. Later, LG Manoj Sinha announced that an ex-gratia of Rs 5 Lakh each would be given to the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the unfortunate bus accident in Assar, Doda. Besides, Rs 1 Lakh would be given to those injured, the announcement made on X added.

With condolences pouring in from all sides, Altaf Bukhari on Apni Party demanded the government must order a detailed investigation into the road accident at Assar and that accused persons must be brought to book. The roads in Chenab Valley have become a death trap and the authorities concerned have failed to fix problems on the road that connects Jammu – Doda – Ramban and Kishtwar. “The traffic police should act against the overloading and speedy vehicles on the hilly roads that often lead to fatal road accidents and loss of lives,” he added.


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