13 Killed in Highway Mishap

SRINAGAR: At least 13 people were killed and 37 others injured when an overcrowded minibus they were travelling in, skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge on mountainous Srinagar-Jammu highway in Ramban district on Sunday.

The passenger vehicle- a Tata 407 was going from Banihal railway station to Ramban and lost control while negotiating a sharp curve near a place nick named as Battery Cheshma. A police spokesman in Jammu said that 10 persons died on the spot, while three of the injured succumbed at a Jammu hospital. Of the injured many were said to be critical.

The identity of the killed was not established till last reports came in on Sunday night. As soon as the news about the accident spread, locals and policemen rushed to the spot to carry out rescue work.

A driver who stopped his vehicle to see the mini-bus falling into the gorge also slipped into the ravine and died, police said.

"The vehicle had fallen into more than 800 feet deep gorge," Muzaffar Ahmad, a Ramban resident a local journalist over phone. "Some bodies have been kept at hospital here and critically wounded have been airlifted to Jammu hospital and others referred to Srinagar hospital."

Officials said cause of accident was being ascertained and preliminary investigation has revealed the minibus was overcrowded with around 42 people on board.

According to reports, the bus was carrying many passengers from Kashmir Valley who had travelled to Banihal by train and alighted at the railway station.

Expressing shock and grief over the loss of lives, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah sanctioned a relief of Rs 1 lakh each for the deceased and Rs 10,000 for the hospitalized injured.

Accidents are frequent on the 300 km long highway the lone surface link between Kashmir valley and rest of India.

According to last government figures, as many as 3,288 persons were killed and 27,165 injured in 18,786 accidents in the state during last three years.

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