16 Amarnath Yatra pilgrims killed, 31 injured in bus accident
New Delhi: At least 16 Amarnath Yatra pilgrims were killed and 31 were injured when a bus plunged into a gorge in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ramban district, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Indian Air force said.
The deceased included two women and belonged to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Assam, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh. Sixteen of the injured persons were critical, the officials added.
“The bus, bearing registration number JK02Y 0594, was heading towards Srinagar when it rolled down into a gorge near an Army camp in Nachilana area of Banihal in Ramban district,” senior superintendent of police (SSP), Ramban, Mohan Lal said.
The bus was part of a convoy carrying 3,603 pilgrims from Jammu to the twin base-camps of Baltal and Pahalgam for the pilgrimage to Amarnath in South Kashmir Himalayas.
The Indian Air Force rescued 16 of the survivors and airlifted them to nearby hospitals in Jammu. “CRPF rescued the injured yatris from the accident site at Ramban and facilitated their evacuation at Jammu Airport. We have further extended all necessary help to the injured pilgrims at Jammu,” said a senior CRPF official from New Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed pain at the loss of lives and announced an ex-gratia of Rs2 lakh for the next of kin of those killed and Rs50,000 for the seriously injured.
Meanwhile, J&K police, the Indian Army and CRPF, with help from locals, launched rescue operation and brought out the dead from the nullah.
The J&K State Road Transport Corporation has ordered an in-house inquiry into the road accident. “An in-house inquiry committee has been constituted to look into the circumstances that led to this tragic accident involving an SRTC bus carrying the Amarnath yatris,” managing director Mir Afroz Ahmad said.
Defence minister Arun Jaitley, home minister Rajnath Singh, J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed condolences at the loss of lives. Singh spoke to J&K governor N.N. Vohra and Mufti and took stock of the situation, officials said.
This is the second major tragedy to affect the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims this year. On 10 July, militants attacked a bus carrying pilgrims in which eight persons lost their lives. A woman devotee, who was injured in the attack, succumbed at a hospital on Sunday. Lalita, 47, succumbed to injuries at the SKIMS Hospital at Srinagar, a police official said.