GILGIT / MANSEHRA: Twenty-six people died and at least 20 others suffered injuries when a Rawalpindi-bound bus from Skardu hit a small hill near Babusar Pass in Diamer district early on Sunday morning.
Ten military personnel on board the bus also lost their lives as did three children and eight women. Officials were yet to ascertain the cause of the tragic crash.
The bus (BLN-A1495) of Mashabrum Tours, which left Skardu on Saturday evening, was on its way to Rawalpindi via Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad road when it smashed into the small hill at around 7am, officials said.
Twenty-five passengers were killed on the spot while another died at hospital, according to assistant commissioner of Balakot, Sameer Hussain Laghari, who rushed to the spot following the collision.
“We have cleared the accident site as all 26 dead and 20 injured have been shifted to nearby hospitals in Mansehra and Chilas districts,” he said.
Locals from Kaghan and Chilas along with police shifted the injured and the deceased to civil hospitals in Naran and Chilas where four victims were said to be in critical condition.
10 soldiers were among victims; cause of accident remains unknown
The injured passengers told the police that the bus was moving fast but they were not sure if it went out of control due to rash driving or its brakes developed some fault. “We have been confirming the exact cause behind the accident,” said Mr Laghari.
He said eight injured were shifted to civil hospital in Naran and 12 to civil hospital in Chilas.
“We called six ambulances and an equal number of other vehicles to shift the injured to hospitals from Gattidas where there is no communication system intact,” the assistant commissioner added.
“An army helicopter landed at the site and airlifted the injured, including four army sepoys, to Gilgit-Baltistan,” said Mr Laghari.
He said that the injured women and children were also shifted to hospitals.
A press release issued by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that 10 soldiers were among the 26 deceased whose bodies were airlifted to Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Gilgit.
“The army troops undertook rescue and relief operation for unfortunate bus accident,” the ISPR said, adding that the army aviation helicopters evacuated the injured to CMH Gilgit for treatment.
Dr Ziaul Haq, the head of civil hospital in Naran, told the media that four of the injured brought to the health facility were army soldiers.
The army choppers shifted six injured passengers to Gilgit CMH, while five seriously injured passengers were transported to Abbottabad in ambulances.
According to relevant authorities, passengers of the bus hailed from Skardu and Ghanche district, and the 16 army personnel belonged to different areas of the country. Some of the passengers were later identified as Akhtar Ismail, Mohammad Ali and his five family members, Sakhawat, Fida Hussain and Syed Zain.
Spokesman for Gilgit-Baltistan government Faizullah Faraq told Dawn that the bus collided with a rock at Gatidas near Babusar top. The area situated about 13,000 feet above sea level links Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Mr Faraq said the cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained. However, he was of the opinion that there were two possible reasons. Either the brakes of the bus had failed or the driver had dozed off on the way, he added.
Just three weeks ago, 24 passengers were killed when a speeding bus fell off a mountainous road into a river in Kohistan.
Later, Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) Commander Major General Ehsan Mehmood Khan visited the Babusar area, Chilas and the district headquarters hospital of Diamer.
The ISPR stated: “Army troops undertook rescue and relief operation for victims of bus accident at Babusar Top. Pakistan Army aviation helicopters evacuated injured, airlifted [them] to Combined Military Hospital Gilgit for medical treatment.”
It added that the bodies of 26 passengers, including the 10 army soldiers who lost lives in the mishap, were also shifted to the CMH.
According to sources, after identification of the victims at the CMH, the bodies will be handed over to their heirs.
Meanwhile, GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman, Governor Raja Jalal Hussain Maqpoon, political and religious party leaders expressed grief over the fatal accident.
Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2019