Sunday May 13 2018

At least five dead as over 20 tourists swept away in Neelum Valley bridge collapse

NEELUM: At least 20 tourists were swept away when a bridge collapsed in Neelum Valley, Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, according to the police.

Police officials said around 25 tourists stopped to take pictures on the bridge, located over the Jagran Nullah in Kundal Shahi area, when it collapsed as it could not withstand the pressure.

An operation is under way to rescue the tourists, with authorities having recovered five bodies and rescued at least six people up till now. 

Locals seen during rescue efforts - Geo News

Personnel of the Pakistan Army are also assisting in the operation. 

However, the extremely cold water of the stream and its strong current are hampering efforts to recover the persons. 

Locals said the victims were likely students of two medical colleges from Lahore and Faisalabad who were touring the scenic valley.

Sources said the bridge could only withstand a maximum of four persons and had relevant warning signs for the purpose as well but the tourists still thronged the bridge. 

Scores of visitors flock to Kashmir and its scene Neelum Valley during the summer season. 

Control room set up

AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider took notice of the incident and sought a report from the relevant officials.

The prime minister ordered the setting up of a control room in Muzaffarabad and directed families of the victims to contact the centre at 0582220097.

He also directed the deputy commissioner to speed up rescue efforts and ensure anyone responsible for negligence is brought to book. 

Later, Haider departed Muzaffarabad for Neelum Valley to oversee the rescue efforts.

In a message, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expressed sympathy and regret over the incident. 

Army team reaches site of the incident

A Pakistan Army team of SSG soldiers, doctors, paramedical staff, and divers reached the site of the incident on the instructions of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement. 

The army's media wing said that the Army personnel shifted four bodies and 11 injured to Muzaffarabad from Shahkot via helicopter.