AT LEAST 16 people have died and 20 have been injured after an overcrowded minibus carrying schoolchildren crashed into a gorge in northern India.
The minibus was reportedly overcrowded when it veered off the road and plunged into a deep ravine on Wednesday morning (14 Sept).
A police officer warned that the death toll was likely to rise because a number of passengers were critically injured.
The majority of the passengers were students from a nearby public school.
Two boys, aged five and fourteen, two teenage girls, and a woman were among those killed.
The horrifying accident occurred around 8.30 a.m. in the Poonch district of the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to police, the minibus was on its way to Poonch from Gali Maidan when it veered off the road and fell into a 100-foot-deep gorge.
The driver reportedly lost control of the bus before it rolled several hundred meters down a ravine in the Himalayan foothills.
Earlier, the death toll stood at 11, but five more passengers died in hospital.
“The death toll is likely to go up in view of the critical injuries to 9 passengers,” an officer said.
Following the accident, a major rescue operation involving police, the army, and locals was launched.
The injured were airlifted to Poonch’s district hospital.
The loss of lives due to an accident in Poonch is saddening. My thoughts are with all those who lost their loved ones. Wishing the injured a speedy recovery. Rs. 2 lakh from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of each deceased and Rs. 50,000 would be given to the injured: PM— PMO India (@PMOIndia) September 14, 2022
Manoj Sinha, India’s Lieutenant Governor, expressed his condolences over the tragic loss of life.
“Saddened by loss of lives due to a road accident in Sawjian, Poonch,” he wrote on Twitter. “Condolences to bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.”
The President of India Rashtrapati Bhavan also spoke out following the tragedy.
She wrote: “The loss of lives in a tragic road accident in Sawjian, Poonch is deeply distressing. My thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families.
“I wish speedy recovery of the injured.”