11 killed, 27 injured as mini-bus rolls down into gorge in Poonch

People and police rescue injured as mini-bus falls into gorge in Mandi area of Poonch on Wednesday. -Excelsior/Waseem

6 airlifted to GMC Jammu, 4 sent to SKIMS Srinagar

Prez, PM, LG express grief; Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia announced

Gopal Sharma

JAMMU, Sept 14: Eleven passengers including four women were killed while 27 others injured when an over-loaded mini-bus skidded off the road and rolled down into nearly 250 feet deep gorge in Sawjian area of Mandi Tehsil in district Poonch this morning.
Official sources said that the tragic accident took place at around 8.35 am today when the ill-fated mini-bus (Canter) bearing registration No. JK12- 1419 was on its way to Poonch from Gali Maidan, about 6 kms ahead of Sawjian. When the vehicle reached near Brari Nallah, hardly 2 kms short of border village Sawjian, the driver lost control over the vehicle at a sharp curve and it rolled down into the Nallah.

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Immediately after the incident, a joint rescue operation by the Army, Police and local villagers was launched. At least eight minor students of Govt Higher Secondary School, Sawjian, hailing from Gagrian area were also travelling in this vehicle. Nine persons were killed on the spot while two others succumbed to their injuries later, official sources said.
President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lt Governor J&K, Manoj Sinha, former Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and several other senior leaders have expressed grief over the loss of lives in the tragic road accident in Poonch.
The J&K Government announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakhs in favour of the kin of the deceased persons and Rs one lakh for the seriously injured passengers. PMO also announced Rs 2 lakh for the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for each injured from Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha, who was already in Poonch, immediately reached district hospital along with Divisional Commissioner Jammu Ramesh Kumar and others and inquired about the health of the injured and directed Medical staff there to provide every possible assistance to the victims. He also requisitioned helicopter for air-lifting critical injured to Govt Medical College Hospital, Jammu. Several local leaders later met LG and demanded setting up of a Medical College at Poonch.
Deputy Inspector General of Police, Rajouri-Poonch Range, Dr Haseeb Mughal said that as per preliminary inputs, nine passengers were killed on the spot, one seriously injured died in hospital and another one succumbed while being air-lifted to GMC Hospital Jammu.
“Seven critical injured were taken to Poonch helipad for airlifting in an IAF chopper to Govt Medical College Hospital Jammu where one of them succumbed. So, six were then airlifted to GMC Jammu. Four other seriously injured were sent to SKIMS Srinagar in two ambulances via Mughal Road,” the DIG added.
He said while some media-persons and others on Social Media were projecting casualty as 12 while officially there was confirmation of only 11 deaths so far. While giving apparent reason behind the accident, he said road was rough and single while the vehicle was also 16 year old. It’s life had been extended by five years hardly last year by the ARTO Poonch. In this 28-seater mini-bus about 40 passengers were travelling. However, police has taken cognizance of the matter, he DIG added.
SSP, Traffic Jammu Rural, Mohan Lal Kaith said since he was in Poonch due to the visit of Lt Governor for the last two days, he immediately rushed to the spot after accident. He said the Canter having capacity of 28 passengers rolled down more than 250 feet deep gorge and hit the hard ground strewn with boulders. The vehicle was carrying several school going children as well. He said there is shortage of passenger vehicles in this remote area and apparent reason behind the accident appears to be some ‘mechanical failure’.
Mohd Rafiq, a local from Sawjian said that he along with two others on bike rushed to the site after coming to know about the accident. Some people had already trekked down the Nallah for carrying rescue operation. Policemen from Police Post Sawjian and Army jawans from nearby RR Unit along with two officers also arrived there and joined rescue operation. One ambulance from Sawjian and two from Mandi also reached and started shifting injured persons to hospital. Army vehicles and some private vehicles of the locals were also used in shifting injured persons to hospital. Army doctors also joined civilian Medical staff for providing first- aid to the injured.
As the mini-bus fell on the rocky bounders, the vehicle was broken into several pieces. Its front portion was badly turned into wreckage. It increased the casualty as well. It was very tough to evacuate injured to the road from deep mountainous gorge and local villagers helped a lot who used ropes and formed a long human chain to help an accident victims. The Higher Secondary School going students also joined the rescue operation as some of their classmates were also among the victims. The villager said drier of the bus Shabir was said to have run away in injured condition from the accident site.
The 11 deceased persons have been identified as Bashir Ahmad Lone (40), son of Mohammeda, resident of Gagrian; his daughter Nazima Akhter (20); Shaida Akhter (32), wife of Altaf Hussain; Rozia Akhter (18), daughter of Musharaf Ahmed; Zarina Begum (40), Mahroof Ahmad (14), son of Manzoor Ahmed; Mohd Hussain (65), son of Manga Khan; Imran Ahmad (6), son of Mohd Altaf; Abdul Kareem (70), son of Subhan Dar; Abdul Majid (65), son of Ahmed Dar, all residents of Gagrian and Abdul Qayoom (40), son of Akbar Din, resident of Saral, Poonch.
“Visited District Hospital, Poonch to enquire about health of civilians who were injured in tragic road accident today. Met the relatives and doctors treating injured. 6 seriously injured have been airlifted to Jammu for treatment. Rs 1 Lakh would be given to those seriously injured,” the Lt Governor tweeted.
Meanwhile, a group of people staged a protest against the district administration over its failure to check frequent road accidents and put in place a well-equipped trauma centre.
“We have to shift critically injured accident victims to Jammu, as a result of which many of them lost their lives,” a protester claimed.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Rs 2 lakh for the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured persons.
“The loss of lives due to an accident in Poonch is saddening. My thoughts are with all those who lost their loved ones. Wishing the injured a speedy recovery. Rs 2 lakh from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of each deceased and Rs 50,000 would be given to the injured,” he said in a tweet on the Twitter handle of the PMO.
President Droupadi Murmu said, “The loss of lives in a tragic road accident in Sawjian, Poonch is deeply distressing. My thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families. I wish speedy recovery of the injured.”
Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted: “Pained to learn about the loss of lives in a bus accident in Poonch, Jammu and Kashmir. My deepest condolences to the bereaved family members and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured.”
“ I am deeply pained to learn about this heart wrenching road accident in Poonch in which a dozen lives were lost. I offer my condolences to the bereaved families and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured,” former Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
Meanwhile those injured in the accident were identified as Ghulam Mustafa (10), son of Altaf Ahmed; Sameer Ahmed (8), son of Jahangir Ahmed; Iram Kousar (6); daughter of Jahangir Ahmed; Mohd Azad (50), son of Mohd Din; Hanifa Begum (65), wife of Late Manir Hussain; Laiqat Ali (35), son of Shah Mohd, resident of Tata Pani Rajouri; Nazia Akhter (17), daughter of Abdul Rashid; Mohd Akber (38), son of Kabir Joo; Mohd Iqbal (50), son of Mohd Din; Tariq Ahmad (21), Farooq Ahmed; Jameel Akhter (22), daughter of imran Ahmed; Sonya (15) daughter of Abdul Gani; Abdul Ahad (70); son of Abdul Sataar, Mukthiar Ahmed (25), son of Ghulam Rasool; Mohd Ismail (40), son of Akbar Din, resident of Saral Shahpur, Abdul Majeed (65), son of Ahmed Da; Nazia Akhter (19), daughter of Mohd Rafiq; Mohd Alam (26), son of Mohd Rafiq, resident of Salootri; Nazima (20), daughter of Abdul Hamid; Jasvinder Singh (40), son of Chain Singh, resident of Bishnah, Jammu; Sanaullah (65), son of Mohammda Dar; Ghulam Mohd (14), son of Ali Mohd; Adil Ahmed (17), son of Mohd Rafiq; Kamran Ahmed (16), son of Mohd Yousaf; Farhan Ahmed (10), son of Mohd Yousaf;  Mumtaz Ahmed (12), son of Mashooq Ahmed and Saleema Akhter (22), wife of Sadam Hussain, all hailing from Gagrian area of Sawjian.
Critically injured airlifted to GMC Jammu were identified as-Mohd Azam (45), Tariq Ahmed (21), Abdul Samad (57), Jameela Begum (22), Abdul Majid (60) and Mukhtar Ahmed (17). Two were removed to Army Hospital Rajouri while four to SKIMS Srinagar by road, an official said.
Station House Officer, Mandi, Insp Mukhtar Ali said that a case FIR No. 113/2022 under Sections 279, 337 and 304- A has been registered and investigation launched.