Srinagar: The Jammu-Srinagar national highway once again turned killer as four people died and five others were injured when a vehicle travelling to Jammu with nine passengers on board fell into a deep gorge near Digdol in Ramban district on Tuesday.
The accident happened after the strategic route was thrown open for one-way traffic from Srinagar to Jammu on Tuesday.
As per reports, a Tavera vehicle skidded off the road and fell into the 500-ft deep gorge at Digdol in Ramban district. Inspector General of Traffic Shafqat Watali confirmed the death of four persons and said that the Tavera vehicle bearing registration number JK03D/0989 fell on the banks of Bishlari nallah in Ramban district.
A traffic department official said that police, army and locals reached the spot where three persons had already died while six others were seriously injured. The injured were rushed to nearby district hospital Ramban where one of the injured succumbed.
Two of the four persons killed in the accident were identified by police as Hakeem Roof, son of Ghulam Nabi, resident of Ganipora Qazigund, and Summi Begum, wife of Altaf Hussain, resident of Chittrigam village in Shopian.
The injured include Mazain, 8, son of Altaf Hussain from Ganipora Anantnag; Musaib, 10, son of Shabir Ahmed Gani of Aarishpora; Javid Ahmed, 40, son of GH Mohammad of Dayalgam Anantnag; Shabir Ahmed, 35, son of Mohammad Ibrahim of Shopian; and Lali Begum, 32, wife of Shabir Ahmed of Shopian. All of them have been referred to GMC Hospital Srinagar for treatment.
Fayaz Bashir, a frequent commuter to Jammu through the national highway, said that the high airfares in winter had forced many like him to take the risky road route. “I would have thought of avoiding this (highway journey) and travel through air, but my pocket doesn’t allow to pay the hefty amount,” Ahmad said.
Shabir Ahmad, a taxi driver, said that the traffic rush on the highway has increased because of the steep airfares and the closing down of the highway for days on end.
Netizens took to social media to blame traffic police for throwing the highway open without preparation. “The accident on the first day of the reopening of the highway tells us how safe the road is for regular traffic. I am myself witness to the pathetic condition of the road at various points,” Aqib Nabi, a daily commuter from Srinagar, wrote on his Twitter account.
Blaming the government of inaction on exorbitant airfares, chairman of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Yasin Khan told Kashmir Reader that the government was not taking cognisance of repeated requests from trade bodies and general public.
“Few days back we wrote to the chief minister and to the chief executive of the state airlines to apprise them of the adverse effects of exorbitant air fares on tourism and on daily life. But nothing positive has come out of that. It shows how non-serious the government is,” Khan said.
He said the government should prepare alternatives like the Kishtwar tunnel and Mughal road to discourage people from travelling on the deadly highway.
IG Traffic Watali denied allegations that the highway was unsafe for traffic to ply on Tuesday. He said the police are yet to confirm the causes of today’s accident.
“We don’t know whether the vehicle skidded off due to a stone or if it was some error on the part of the driver. There could be several reasons for this unfortunate accident. An FIR has been registered in this regard,” Watali said.
According to official figures, more than 1,000 people in the state have lost their lives in road accidents in the state in recent years. In the year 2014, 2,124 road mishaps were reported, killing 311 and injuring 1,570, most of the accidents taking place on the national highway. In 2013, 2,204 road accidents were reported, killing 353 and injuring 3,033.