RAWALPINDI: More than a dozen passengers died and over 38 were injured when two passenger buses fell off a cliff into a gorge during rainy weather near Saalgran, some 25 kilometres from Islamabad and Rawalpindi on Wednesday.
Army troops were also present on site to assist the civil administration in rescue operations. Two buses, with over 80 passengers on board, were heading towards Rawalpindi from Murree when both plunged into a 150 feet deep gorge, the police said.
The buses slipped after colliding with each other while overtaking at a sharp turn near a bridge. A state of emergency has been declared at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) and Polyclinic to provide medical treatment to the injured people.
Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, taking serious notice of the unfortunate accident, has asked the top police and administrative authorities to supervise the rescue operation.
“Both the buses were going in the same direction when the rammed into each other and fell one after the other, as drivers of both the vehicles lost control over the vehicles,” a local resident of Saalgran, who witnessed the episode said and added that a bus fell right over the other bus. Consequently, the passengers of both buses got badly trapped in the wreckage.
Hundreds of locals of Saalgran rushed to the scene soon after the occurrence and started rescuing the passengers, the witnesses said, adding that about ten people died on the spot while the others died later.
The locals shifted most of the wounded persons to PIMS well before any official help reached the scene. The rescuers faced difficulties in helping survivors due to rain, severe cold and darkness while the wreckage of both buses was lying in the cold water of a drain. “It was quite difficult to shift the injured to ambulances, parked at a climbing distance of about 15 minutes.
“The personnel of Rescue-1122 took out the trapped passengers by cutting parts of the buses with the help of army men and locals,” the tehsil administration authorities said, adding that the locals worked hard and played a vital role at the early stage.
SP (Sadar) Jamil Hashmi, when contacted, said that seven bodies among 11 shifted to PIMS have been identified as Sami-ur-Rehman, son of Faiz-ur-Rehman resident of Hana, Dheer Kot, Zulfiqar Ahmad, s/o Abdul Ghaffar, resident of Champaran, Abottabad, Azhar Mehmood, s/o Abdul Ghaffar, resident of Champaran, Muhammad Qadeer Abbasi, s/o Qurban Khan, resident of Chah Sultan, Rawalpindi, permanent resident of Murree, Muhammad Zada, s/o Wadiq Rehman, resident of Shariat Quldeer, Imtiaz Ahmad s/o Dildar Khan, Islamabad, and Zeshan Ashraf, s/o Muhammad Ashraf, resident Raheem Yar Khan.
Chief Traffic Warden Syed Ishtiaq Hussain Shah told the media people that over-speeding was the basic cause with the other reasons of the occurrence. He said that both the drivers were trying to overtake each other, adding, when the passengers asked the drivers to control the speed limit, they refused to do so, saying that they were getting late.
More than 35 injured passengers, including women and children, were shifted to PIMS till late night. The rescue operation was going on till filing of this report.APP adds: Meanwhile, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif Wednesday took notice of an unfortunate accident meted out to two buses in Salgaraan area near Murree.
The prime minister directed the District Coordination Officer and City Police Officer Rawalpindi to immediately launch the rescue operation there and supervise all these efforts personally.
Nawaz noted with concern that there was absence of standard operating procedures (SPOs) for traffic regulation during bad weather conditions that was not acceptable. He said the divisional administration and the police must devise a strategy by Thursday afternoon in this regard and start implementing it.
He directed the Chief Commissioner Deputy Commissioner and Inspector General of Police Islamabad to reach the accident spot and assist rescue operation using all resources. He also ordered the Deputy Commissioner Islamabad to look after the injured and give full access to the victims’ families visiting PIMS and Polyclinic hospitals.
Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif expressed deep sense of sorrow and grief over the loss of precious human lives. The chief minister directed the administration to speed up relief activities and provide all possible medical facilities to the injured.