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Tourist spot in Gilgit-Baltistan claims 21 lives this summer

Updated July 18, 2017
Tourists are seen at Babusar Pass. —Photo by author
Tourists are seen at Babusar Pass. —Photo by author

Babusar Pass, the road connecting Gilgit-Baltistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and leading to the most famous tourist attraction Babusar Top, has become a death trap for tourists who throng the area during the summer season.

Thousands of foreign and local tourists visit the northern areas of the country every year as normalcy has returned to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa following the back to back military operations in the region.

During the last two days, at least five tourists have lost their lives in road accidents, whereas, several others have sustained injuries.

On Monday, a tourist van fell deep into a ravine, killing one tourist and injuring 16 others. The van, carrying 17 passengers from Mahrabpur area of Sindh, was going to Gilgit city via Babusar Pass road.

Authorities told Dawn that the accident occurred when the van developed a technical issue in its brakes. They said that the brakes failed due to excessive use on this sloppy route; resultantly, the van skidded off the road and fell into a ravine.

Earlier on Sunday, four people were killed and 12 others injured when a bus carrying tourists plunged into a ravine near the Babusar top area of Gilgit-Baltistan, said rescue sources.

Rescue 1122 officials said a woman and a child were also among those killed. All the victims were residents of Thatta, Sindh, the rescuers had told Dawn.

The van, carrying 16 tourists, was on the way to Islamabad from Gilgit via Babusar Pass when it skidded off and fell into a deep ravine near Geeta-Das area between Chilas and Babusar Top.

The bodies and survivors were shifted to district headquarter hospital Chilas with the help of local volunteers. Hospital sources said that condition of two injured, including the driver of the van, was pronounced as critical.

The road, which remains functional only six months a year due to heavy snowfall in the remaining months, has claimed 21 lives so far during the ongoing tourist season.

Babusar Pass road remains open from the end of June to October every year, whereas the road remains closed for the rest of year due to heavy snowfall.

Local residents said that accidents on Babusar Pass road have become a matter of routine. Faroqi, a resident of Chilas, the district headquarter of Diamer, put the blame on the road and the relevant authorities.

He held the inappropriate design of the road and absence of a boundary wall along the road responsible for the accidents.

The government authorities, however, put forth other causes of casualties. Diamer Dupty Commissioner Dildar Ahmed Malik said district administration has been taking every possible measure to protect the tourists visiting these areas.

The Diamer DC said, "Usually the accidents occur due to lack of awareness in connection with issues being faced by a driver while driving on the mountainous tracks."

The road passes through mountainous areas where frequent use of break leads to break fail which results in dangerous accidents, he maintained.

Malik said that the district administration has installed signboards along the road, describing instructions for drivers. The DC explained that currently, many locals and foreigners are heading towards Naran-Babusar Pass road to visit Gilgit-Baltistan and Naran, Kaghan areas of KP.

He was of the opinion that the non-local drivers do not know enough about the route and how to drive safely on such tracks.