Jammu: Sixteen Amarnath pilgrims were killed and 26 seriously injured when the bus in which they were travelling plunged into a gorge in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ramban District on Sunday, authorities said.
Soon after the accident, about a dozen lives of Amaranth pilgrims were saved by the locals of the Banihal area.
Activists from an NGO by the name ‘WE FOR U’, which is operating since 2004, rushed to the spot and started rescue operations. In order to inform the other activists to reach and help in the rescue operation, they made a WhatsApp group.
According to the report published in “India Today”, Amir Wani was the first NGO activist to reach the spot.
The rescue team was headed by activist, Ilyas Banihali. He also met the Chairman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and the Governor of the State, NN Vohra. During the meeting, he informed that despite several requests, district administration did not supply the equipment required for rescue operations.
After the meeting, he told that the Governor assured them that the board will provide Rs. 5 lakh for the equipment.
It may be noted that the Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation Bus was on its way from Jammu to Kashmir Valley when the driver reportedly lost control over the vehicle at Nichnala near Banihal town on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.
“Sixteen pilgrims were killed on the spot while 26 others have been injured,” a police officer said. The deceased comprised 14 men and two women.
Of the injured, five were taken to Srinagar, 19 others were airlifted to the Government Medical College Super Specialty Hospital in Jammu and two are being treated at Banihal hospital.
The spokesman said the bus carried 43 persons including the driver.
Army, police and paramilitary forces launched a rescue operation which was joined by the locals, who helped to take out the injured pilgrims from the wreckage site.
Army helicopters flew the injured to Jammu City.
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah expressed grief over the accident.
Modi said: “Extremely pained by the loss of lives of Amarnath yatris… My thoughts are with the families of the deceased. I pray that those injured recover soon.”
Rajnath Singh said that he spoke to Mehbooba Mufti regarding the accident. She apprised him of the rescue operations.
“My heart goes out to the families of the Amarnath yatris who lost their loved ones in the bus accident. My prayers are with the injured,” he added.
It is to be noted that this is the second tragedy to hit the Amarnath pilgrimage since militants ambushed a bus on July 10, killing eight people.