Kashmir minibus plunges into Kishtwar gorge, killing at least 35

Overcrowded minibus drives off Himalayan mountain road in Kishtwar district, plunging into 150-metre deep gorge.

    Several passengers survived the plunge in Kishtwar district [Channi Anand/The Associated Press]
    Several passengers survived the plunge in Kishtwar district [Channi Anand/The Associated Press]

    An overcrowded minibus crashed into a gorge in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday, killing at least 35 people and injuring another 17, officials said, in the second such accident in the state within a week.

    The bus plunged off the Himalayan mountain road in Kishtwar district as its driver negotiated a curve and rolled down into a 150-metre deep gorge along a rocky stream, said civil administrator Angrez Singh Rana.

    Seven of the injured were in a critical condition and were rushed to a nearby hospital, he said.

    Rana said 10 of the injured were airlifted in two helicopters to Jammu city for specialised treatment. 

    Officials were investigating whether it was a mechanical failure or driver's negligence.

    Senior police officer MK Sinha said the bus hit the rocks and was torn in several pieces. He said the 27-seat bus was overcrowded.

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered condolences via Twitter, saying, "The accident in Jammu and Kashmir's Kishtwar is heart-wrenching. We mourn all those who lost their lives and express condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover at the earliest."

    It was the second deadly crash in less than a week in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, renowned for its mountainous terrain and abysmal road safety record.

    On Thursday, a minibus carrying students to a picnic crashed into a gorge along another Himalayan road in Kashmir, killing at least 11 and injuring seven others.

    Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik said many of the drivers were untrained and he had ordered state officials to cancel their licences.

    "Most of the accidents take place due to careless and untrained drivers who drive without any regard for rules and regulations," a state government spokesperson quoted the governor as saying.

    India has the world's deadliest roads, with about 150,000 killed and 470,000 injured annually. Most crashes are blamed on reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and ageing vehicles.

    SOURCE: News agencies