[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t least 13 people were killed and 13 others injured, seven of them seriously, after a minibus plunged 300 feet into a deep gorge near the Chenab river in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday morning, police said.
The accident occurred at Dandaran, near Thakrai, when the driver of the mini bus, which was on its way to Kishtwar from the Keshwan area, lost control of it on Friday morning.
This is the third major accident in Kishtwar district in the last one month.
While 13 Machail Yatra devotees were killed when their cab plunged into a gorge on August 21, seven persons were killed and 12 others injured when two vehicles were hit by boulders a day earlier.
The rickety roads in hilly Doda region coupled with official apathy and reckless drivers in overloaded vehicles have turned this stretch into a death trap for commuters.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra, who had a 10-year long tenure in the state, had repeatedly asked successive regimes in the state to improve the roads in the hilly state, especially Doda region.
The bus was carrying over 30 passengers, Kishtwar SSP, Rajinder Gupta, said, adding that the rescue operation was launched immediately after the accident. The 25-seater minibus was on its way from Thakrai in Keshwan to Kishtwar, he said. Thakrai is 15 km from Kishtwar town in Jammu region.
Gupta said seven seriously injured passengers were being airlifted to Jammu government medical college and hospital for specialised treatment. “A helicopter from Pawan Hans and then another from Army will be ferrying the injured to Jammu,” he said.
The mishap occurred around 8.30 am when the minibus veered off the road and plunged into the gorge, the SSP said.
Local people were the first responders to the early morning accident before the police and the army were rushed to the spot to launch rescue operations.
Jammu and Kashmir’s former Director General of Police S P Vaid who was recently transferred as the state’s Transport Commissioner has expressed his sorrow at the loss of lives.
People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti shared her condolences on micro-blogging site Twitter.