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Srinagar Boat Crash That Killed At Least 4 Children Stirs Anger Over Incomplete Bridge

Six people died in the accident, and another three are feared dead. The bridge the boat crashed into has been 'under construction' since 2017.
Hundreds of people gathered in Gandbal to shoulder the coffins of those who died, including four children. Photo: Ubaid Mukhtar

Srinagar: A man and two minors, one of them his son, are feared dead while the bodies of six others were retrieved after a boat crashed into a bridge over Jhelum river in Srinagar city on Tuesday, April 16.

The tragic incident sparked a political row in Kashmir with the People’s Democratic Party targeting the administration for delaying the completion of the bridge, which has been undergoing construction for the last seven years, while the National Conference demanded an inquiry into the incident.

Witnesses and officials said that a group of young children were among the victims who took the wooden boat, a rope ferry, to cross the Jhelum river in Srinagar at around 8:30 am on Tuesday. The children were on their way to a school in the Gandbal area.

“In the middle of the river, the ferry’s rope came off and it drifted uncontrollably towards the girdle of an under-construction bridge due to heavy flow of water and split into two,” a senior official in Srinagar district administration said, adding that the ferry sank instantly and all the passengers were washed away.

Rescue teams searching for the missing persons who were washed away by heavy currents after a boat capsized in the Jhelum river on Tuesday, April 16. Photo: Ubaid Mukhtar

Over the weekend, snow in Kashmir’s higher reaches and incessant rain in the plains have caused the Jhelum to swell menacingly. Some victims were accompanied by one of their parents at the time of the tragedy on Tuesday morning, officials said.

Four among the dead are minors, officials said. A man lost his wife and two sons while a father, who was rescued by officials, jumped back into the river after seeing his son’s body getting washed away. The father-son duo are also feared to be dead.

Relatives break down upon hearing the news of the passing of their loved ones in the tragic boat accident in Srinagar city on Tuesday. Photo: Ubaid Mukhtar

A resident of Gandal, who spoke with a local news portal, claimed that he came out of his home on Tuesday morning after hearing the screams of his neighbours who had gathered on the banks of the Jhelum. “I could see some arms waving in the river. Without wasting time, I took out my boat,” he said.

The local resident, who couldn’t be immediately identified, claimed that he managed to retrieve four people from the river with the help of his neighbours but all of them were dead. “Two of them were children,” he said.

Dozens of anguished people lined along the banks of the river on Tuesday morning, hoping for a miracle. Women intermittently raised their arms towards the sky, but their prayers soon turned into loud wails and mourning as rescue teams pulled out the dead bodies from the river one by one.

Relatives break down upon hearing the news of the passing of their loved ones in the tragic boat accident in Srinagar city on Tuesday. Photo: Ubaid Mukhtar

Some family members could be seen breaking down on the riverbank as the motionless bodies of their loved ones were brought out by the rescue teams. Emotions ran high as the school bags of the children, who were killed in the tragedy, were pulled out of the river.

“Twelve people were retrieved from the river of whom six were dead. Three more persons are missing and searches are underway,” said Srinagar deputy commissioner Dr Bilal M. Bhat. Four among the nine people dead are minors while one of the deceased is 18 years old.

Amid a pall of gloom, a joint funeral was held for five deceased persons in Batwara locality of Srinagar which was attended by hundreds of mourners. Senior officials of Srinagar district administration and J&K Police camped in the area to supervise the rescue operations.

Several hundreds of people attended the funeral prayers for five victims of the boat tragedy in Srinagar in which nine people drowned. Photo: Ubaid Mukhtar

According to officials, the bridge, which caused the boat to break into two, was sanctioned by the PDP-BJP coalition government in 2017. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, senior People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former J&K minister Naeem Akhtar said that he had laid its foundation stone.

“These deaths are on somebody’s hands. Remember the day when I laid the foundation stone of this footbridge and the happy faces around us celebrating the fulfilment of a long-pending demand. It was fully funded. But then the #vikas took over. Heartbreaking loss,” he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

An official in the Jammu and Kashmir’s Public Works Department (PWD) told the PTI that under the 2017 project, a footbridge was proposed to be constructed to Gandbal which was later modified to build a motorable bridge.

“When Article 370 was abrogated, there was a ‘change of scope’. The rules which were not there earlier were implemented. Because of that, its technical sanction took time. We have been working very fast for the last three months,” the PWD official claimed.

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