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17 Jul 2017

Bus accident kills 16 Amarnath pilgrims

The bus that fell into the gorge on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway on Sunday. (PTI)
TT, Srinagar, July 16: A bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims skidded off the road and rolled down a deep gorge in the Banihal area of Jammu, leaving 16 people dead and dozens injured today in the second tragedy to hit the pilgrimage this year.
Officials said the bus, part of a convoy carrying 3,603 pilgrims bound for the 3,888m cave shrine in the Kashmir Himalayas, was on its way from Jammu to Pahalgam, one of the two base camps, when it fell into the gorge in Ramban district, around 130km from Srinagar.
Among the 31 injured, 19 are said to be critical.
Last Monday, six women and a man died after militants ambushed a bus carrying Amarnath yatris in Kashmir's Anantnag district.
One more pilgrim among that group from Gujarat succumbed to her injures in Srinagar's Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences last night, taking the toll to eight.
Jammu divisional commissioner Mandeep Bhandari said 47 people, including the driver, were on the bus when it veered off the road, killing 16 people, including two women, and injuring the rest.
Bhandari said the critically injured were airlifted to Jammu for treatment. Those with minor injuries left for Srinagar by road. "IG sahib (the Jammu inspector-general of police) was saying that perhaps... there was some problem in the tyre, it burst or whatever has happened. It is a matter of inquiry to find out what was the reason for the accident," Bhandari told The Telegraph. "Ultimately, he (the driver) lost control of the bus (and it skidded off the road)."
Officials said the dead pilgrims were from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.
Hundreds of local people rushed to help security forces rescue the injured from the bus, which had fallen some hundred feet. Banihal Congress leader Salman Nizami lauded the local people for joining the rescue efforts despite the risks involved. "Humanity has NO religion. It bridges d gaps of religion. Hope national TV shows this...This is Kashmiriyat," he tweeted.
Governor N.N. Vohra, who heads the board managing the 40-day Yatra, flew to Banihal to oversee the rescue operation.
The governor appreciated the work of Youths Against Evils for providing prompt relief to the injured and sanctioned Rs 5 lakh for the Banihal NGO to strengthen their humanitarian endeavours.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed pain at the loss of lives. "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," Modi tweeted.
Over 7,200 pilgrims paid obeisance at the holy cave on the 18th day of the Yatra today. An official spokesperson said 202,705 yatris had visited the cave so far this year.

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