Doda (J&K), Nov 15 (PTI) At least 38 people were killed and 20 injured when a bus carrying passengers skidded off the road and rolled down into a 300-foot gorge in Jammu and Kashmir's Doda district on Wednesday, officials said.
The bus bearing registration number JK02CN-6555 was reportedly carrying 58 passengers, they said, adding that it skidded off the road near Trungal-Assar on the Batote-Kishtwar national highway and fell 300 feet downhill.
A rescue operation has been launched and some bodies have been retrieved, the officials said.
The death toll is likely to go up.
According to a police spokesperson, the accident occurred at around 11:50 am at Trungal-Assar and the bus was on its way from Kishtwar to Jammu.
In a statement, Public Relations Officer (Defence) Lieutenant Colonel Suneel Bartwal said 38 people were killed in the incident, with 32 passengers declared dead initially, and 20 sustained injuries.
"In a commendable display of promptness and coordination, the Indian Army, in collaboration with civil administration, conducted a swift rescue operation in response to a grievous accident on National Highway 244 at Assar, near Wani Mod, approximately 4 km from COB ASSAR towards Batote," he said.
Bartwal said the bodies are being sent to the Assar Primary Health Centre and Doda Civil Hospital.
There were a total of 58 individuals on board the ill-fated bus at the time of the incident, he added.
Doda Deputy Commissioner Harvinder Singh had earlier said 37 people were killed and 19 injured, including four who were shifted to the Government Medical College (GMC) hospital in Jammu.
"It is an unfortunate incident. It was said that the bus was not being run on the right side, which resulted in the accident," Singh told PTI.
Some of the deceased have been identified and the bodies will be handed over to their families.
"We checked all the details of the vehicle. Maybe it was not being driven in the right manner. The vehicle jumped over the crash barriers and rolled down," Singh said.
An inquiry will be held into the incident, he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah expressed grief over the incident.
"The bus accident in Doda, Jammu and Kashmir is distressing. My condolences to the families who have lost their near and dear ones. I pray that the injured recover at the earliest," Modi said on X.
He announced that an ex-gratia amount of Rs 2 lakh each would be given to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each would be given to the injured from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
"Deeply anguished to learn about the loss of precious lives due to a tragic bus accident at Doda, Jammu and Kashmir. The local administration is conducting the rescue operation in the gorge where the bus had the accident. My heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured," Shah said on X.
Due to the fall from a considerable height, the bus was badly damaged, sources said.
Police and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel, besides locals, are involved in the rescue operation, they said, adding that some of the injured passengers have been shifted to hospitals.
The injured were first taken to a hospital in Doda and subsequently, four of them were airlifted to the GMC hospital in Jammu.
Top police and civil administration officers are supervising the rescue operation on the spot. The officials said the bus was carrying extra passengers and while negotiating a "U" turn, it overturned and rolled down into the gorge.
The bodies were taken out after cutting some parts of the bus, they added.
Some of the bodies were badly mutilated, the officials said.
Locals expressed concern over the poor condition of the road which, they said, not only led to this accident but several such tragedies in the past.
"The bus was going from Kishtwar to Jammu. Thirty-six people were killed on the spot," Mohammad Ashraf, the sarpanch of the area where the accident took place, told reporters.
Ashraf, who along with other local residents, launched the rescue operation, said at least 10 accidents have taken place in Doda of late, but the administration is yet to act.
"We gave Rs 6 lakh to repair the road. They failed to repair it. They have misappropriated the money. A similar accident took place here only a few months ago and many lives were lost," he added.
"Extremely pained by the loss of lives in a tragic bus accident in Assar, Doda. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved families and wishing for a speedy recovery of those injured in the accident. Directed Div Com and Dist Admin to provide all necessary assistance to affected persons," Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said on X.
This is probably the biggest accident in Doda in the last few years.
On July 1, 2019, 35 people were killed and 17 injured when an overloaded mini-bus veered off the road and fell into a gorge in Kishtwar's Sangwari area.
On September 14, 2018, 17 passengers were killed and 16 injured when a mini-bus skidded off the road and plunged into a gorge in the Dandaran area of Kishtwar.
On May 24 this year, seven people were killed and three injured after a cruiser vehicle skidded off the road and fell into a gorge at the Dangduru dam site in the Dachan area of Kishwar.
Eight people were killed and three seriously injured when their car skidded off the road and plunged into a 300-foot gorge in Kishtwar on August 30.
On June 27, five people were killed and 12 injured when their vehicle fell into a gorge on the Bhadarwah-Pathankot road in Doda.
Six people were killed in road accidents in Doda district on October 8 and October 20. PTI AB RC