At least 10 people were killed and 15 others were injured when a passenger bus, travelling on a dilapidated stretch of road, fell hundreds of feet down onto the bank of River Jhelum during the early hours of Saturday.
The accident took place near Zaminabad village, some 24 kilometres south of Muzaffarabad, on Muzaffarabad-Kohala road, at around 2:30am, Muhammad Qadeer, an official posted at the nearest Chattar Klass Police Station told Dawn by telephone.
The ill-fated bus, with around 25 persons on board, had left Rawalpindi for Chakothi, the last prominent village of Jhelum Valley along the Line of Control.
“Someone who heard the loud noise caused by the accident called Rescue 15 in Muzaffarabad and they alerted us about the unfortunate incident,” said Qadeer, adding that the entire staff of his police station, as well as policemen posted in Kohala, had rushed to the site of the accident to carry out rescue operations.
According to him, at least five persons had died on the spot while three others lost their lives before they could reach a hospital.
Around 17 others, including an infant, were injured and hospitalised in Muzaffarabad, where two succumbed to their injuries, he added.
The deceased have been identified as Muhammad Jamil Rabbani, the bus driver, Halima Khan, Rohan Rashid, Rafina Bibi, Najaf Fatima, Hamza, Zabeer Akbar, Ahsan, Muhammad Saleem and Mehran Ashraf.
Qadeer said the part of the road from where the bus fell down had been damaged, allegedly due to erosion by the River Jhelum, and reckoned that it might be the cause of the accident.
However, another police official, who asked not to be named, said the road was quite wide and the driver could have avoided driving on the extreme left.
“It appears that he had dozed off and the vehicle went out of his control,” he said.
In a tweet, Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan expressed grief over the loss of lives in the accident and prayed for the deliverance of the departed souls and early recovery of the survivors.
The president put the death toll at 11, but police said as of 11:30am on Saturday, the confirmed number of fatalities was 10.