MUZAFFARABAD: More than 25 tourists were swept away when a bridge collapsed in Neelum Valley of Azad Kashmir on Sunday. According to police, the bridge collapsed due to overload when the touring students from Punjab were crossing it in Kundal Shai area.
Officials say between 20 to 25 people were standing on the bridge at the time of the collapse, who were swept away by strong current. TV channels reported that tourists, women and children among them, were taking pictures at the dilapidated bridge over Nullah Jagran when it collapsed.
A rescue operation is underway at Nala Jagran, a hydel-power project built on River Neelum in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The rescue teams approached the venue and recovered 13 people so far while 05 dead bodies have been sent to dead house for post-mortem. Rescue workers said death toll might rise as the tourists were swept away by fast moving current. A rescue official said the tourists were swept away by strong currents. He added that search to recover the rest is underway. Police and army personnel participated in the rescue operation.
The injured have been shifted to District Headquarter Hospital Authmuqam and Army Medical center at Jhamber. Rescue sources said the bridge used to go across the river in Kundal Shahi village of the Neelum Valley, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, collapsed. As a result, more than 25 tourists who were busy snapping pictures on the bridge fell into the river.
The tourists were standing together in the centre of Kundal Shahi bridge to take a picture. The Kundal Shahi bridge could not contain the pressure of their weight.
Police sources said the victims are likely students of two medical colleges from Lahore and Faisalabad who were touring the scenic Neelum valley.
Deputy Commissioner Neelum, Raja Shahid Mahmood, said the bridge was overcrowded when it collapsed. He said six people have been rescued so far.
Deaths of three students of a Faisalabad college have been confirmed. They have been identified as Shahzeb, Abdur Rehman and Muhammad Zubai, all students of college in Faisalabad.
The father of an injured medical student from Sahiwal said that the administration of Azad Jammu and Kashmir should have a mechanism to inform people in such cases of emergency. “I saw the news on TV,” he said. “My daughter is injured and I learnt about her not from the government but from a policeman. Such accidents happen but there should be a mechanism on part of the government.”
Neelum Valley is a popular tourist spot, especially in summers. A large number of people from in and outside of Pakistan head to the destination spot because of its cool weather and scenic beauty. The Kundal Shahi bridge was built eight years ago.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has expressed grief and sorrow over the incident in Neelum Valley. In a statement, the Prime Minister directed the authorities concerned to make utmost efforts in rescue operation. NNI