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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Lens on Srinagar bridge delay as six die after boat with schoolchildren capsizes in Jhelum

The tragedy is a grim reminder of how many are forced to rely on archaic modes of transport in the absence of a bridge in the heart of Srinagar

Muzaffar Raina Jammu Published 17.04.24, 07:17 AM
Rescue operation underway after a boat capsized in the Jhelum river, on the outskirts of Srinagar, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

Rescue operation underway after a boat capsized in the Jhelum river, on the outskirts of Srinagar, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. PTI photo

A mother and her two children are among six persons who lost their lives while several others are missing after a boat carrying mostly schoolchildren and their parents capsized in the swollen Jhelum river in Srinagar early on Tuesday.

The tragedy is a grim reminder of how many are forced to rely on archaic modes of transport in the absence of a bridge in the heart of Srinagar.

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The deaths triggered an uproar in poll season as several politicians cancelled election rallies. Two former chief ministers, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, demanded a probe into the delay in building a bridge in the area.

There are conflicting reports about the number of people in the boat.

A survivor claimed the boat with over 20 persons capsized after the rope tethered to an overhead cable to help it cross the river snapped midway.

“Some of us could swim. We tried to help the others but many drowned. The passengers were mainly schoolchildren and their parents,” a shaken survivor told reporters.

“Crossing the river by boat is a daily routine for many. If we had a bridge, these deaths could have been avoided.”

Jhelum, in spate after heavy rains over the last few days, is flowing close to flood alarm level in Srinagar.

Officials said the dead included 35-year-old Firdousa and her two schoolgoing twins Tanvir and Mudasir.

The district magistrate of Srinagar, Bilal Mohiuddin Bhat, said initial reports suggested around 15 people, including seven minors, were on the boat but he added that they were ascertaining the exact number.

He said three persons who were hospitalised were stable.

“Three persons, including two children, are still missing,” Bhat said.

Search and rescue operations by several agencies, including the State Disaster Response Force, are on to locate those missing.

An Uttar Pradesh resident, Doodnath, said he and his brother rescued three persons. “I saw the boat hitting an iron pillar of an under-construction bridge after the rope snapped. The passengers were calling for help,” he said.

The wailing relatives blamed the government for delaying the construction of a footbridge. They claimed it was under construction since the past two decades.

Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said he was constantly monitoring
the situation.

“I am deeply grieved by the loss of lives due to a boat accident in Srinagar. My thoughts are with the bereaved families, and I pray to the Almighty to give them strength to withstand this immense loss. Teams of SDRF, Army, and other agencies are carrying out relief and rescue work,” Sinha stated on X.

Several J&K politicians, including Farooq Abdullah, Omar, Mehbooba and M.Y. Tarigami, expressed their shock at the tragedy.

National Conference Srinagar candidate Agha Ruhullah said he was cancelling his poll campaign for two days.

Mehbooba pointed out that J&K was under central rule for years.

“I request the government to hold a proper inquiry. Since 2018, we are under central rule. They (the Centre) talk of Naya Kashmir. If the bridge was there, the lives of our kids could have been saved,” she said.

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