MUZAFFARABAD: At least 23 people, including women and children, were killed and another eight were injured after a Rawalpindi-bound public transport vehicle plunged into a ravine in the Sudhnoti district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Wednesday, police and witnesses said.
According to a report by Tahir Naqqash for Dawn newspaper, the 40-seat coaster had started its journey from tehsil headquarters Baloch and after hardly seven kilometres developed a technical fault, according to some witnesses, who said the vehicle first hit the mountain on the left side of the road and then suddenly turned right and fell more than 500 metres down the road.
A man who was selling pakoras under a tent nearby saw the bus plunge and informed a prayer leader in Majhiari village, some two kilometres towards Baloch, over telephone about it.
The prayer leader then made announcements on the loudspeaker asking villagers to rush to the accident site to aid in the rescue.
Poonch Deputy Inspector General Rashid Naeem Khan told Dawn.com that 23 people had died in the accident. He said five of the injured were sent to Kotli district, while three were transported to Baloch.
Sardar Farooq Ahmed Tahir, a former AJK minister in the previous PML-N government, who rushed to the scene along with rescuers, said 21 bodies had been recovered from the accident site, while one of the injured succumbed to his injuries in the Baloch Rural Health Centre.
Some of the deceased were identified as four-year-old Mujtaba, Abida Mustafa, Umar Bashir, Abdul Hai, Noureen, Abdul Karim, Barkat Khan, Zubaida Kousar, Muhammad Safeer, Rukhsana Khanum, Jamil Qureshi, Mansoor, Muhammad Shafi, Nazir Abdul Karim, Naila, Haroon Gaghar, Adnan Tariq, Rashid Begum and nine-year-old Mahira.
Fatal road accidents are common in the country, especially in rural areas where conditions of roads are decrepit.
Last month, four students and as many passengers were killed and 32 others injured in two road accidents in Poonch and Neelum districts of AJK, while another 10 people were wounded in a third road accident in district Muzaffarabad.