Struggle to find 10 missing persons from Neelum river yields no success

Published June 11, 2024
Residents look on as the divers prepare to take another round of Neelum river in a raft on Monday in search of persons went missing after a jeep plunged into the river in the Karimabad area of Neelum valley on Sunday. — Dawn
Residents look on as the divers prepare to take another round of Neelum river in a raft on Monday in search of persons went missing after a jeep plunged into the river in the Karimabad area of Neelum valley on Sunday. — Dawn

MUZAFFARABAD: Rescuers faced immense challenges on Monday as they attempted to recover the bodies of the 10 missing persons and locate the wreckage of the vehicle that plunged into Neelum River, but there was no success, officials said.

The tragic accident occurred on Sunday when a Taobutt-bound Land Cruiser jeep carrying at least 24 people — 18 inside, including the driver, and six on the roof — fell into the icy-cold water channel near Karimabad Parri village, more than 190 kilometres northeast of Muzaffarabad.

Of the 18 inside the vehicle, only three had survived — the driver, a four-year-old boy who landed on the riverbank and a tourist who managed to swim to safety.

The rest had drowned and by the end of Sunday, only six bodies were retrieved.

On Monday, volunteers and divers from Rescue 1122, operating under the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), resumed the rescue operation, using rafts and tubes. However, despite their efforts, they had no success by the time the sunset.

“The water is almost freezing, making it difficult for the rescuers to stay in the river for longer duration. They made attempts at regular intervals but their efforts have yielded no success,” Neelum Valley’s Superintendent of Police (SP) Khawaja Muhammad Siddique told Dawn by telephone from the accident site.

He said the rescuers were also using magnets to locate the vehicle’s wreckage, but there were no signs of it in the vicinity of the accident site.

“It seems the vehicle has been swept away by the mighty river.”

Deputy Commissioner Neelum Raja Arif Mahmood told Dawn that the administration had asked people living along the river in downstream areas to keep an eye out for bodies in the water channel.

When asked about the likelihood of survivors, he said, “the survival of any person in the glacial water after the passage of more than 30 hours was next to impossible.”

“But miracles also happen in our lives. Let’s hope we find some survivors.”

He said rescue operations would be resumed on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the bodies of three tourists from the Samanabad area of Multan were dispatched to their hometown at 11am on Monday, accompanied by the lone survivor, Tanveer.

The funerals of the three Gujjar Bakarwal community members, from Gulpur Kalar Syedan, were held in Taobutt village, where they were subsequently laid to rest.

Meanwhile, in another tragic incident in Neelum Valley on Monday, a 14-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl drowned in Neelum River near Kuchhar village, some 1.5 kilometres before the famous village of Chilyana.

The boy, identified as Shahid, son of Shakoor, lost his balance and fell into the water while manually pulling a fishing line from the riverbank.

The girl, identified as Ayesha, daughter of Shafi, attempted to rescue him but was herself swept away by the violent current, said Muhammad Saghir, an official at the Jura Bandi police post in the lower belt of the valley.

He lamented the carelessness of the parents who allowed their young children to go close to the dangerous river. By evening, neither of the bodies of the duo had been found, he said.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2024

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