Six of a family die as their vehicle plunges into Neelum River

MUZAFFARABAD: Six members of a family, including a minor girl, were killed and two children survived with injuries after their vehicle plunged into the icy Neelum River in Neelum Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Saturday, officials said.

The ill-fated family, which belonged to Narowal (Punjab), was heading towards the upper belt of the picturesque valley for sightseeing. However, shortly ahead of Jura Bandi village, some 65 kilometres northeast of Muzaffarabad, it met with an accident, said Akhtar Ayub, the district disaster management officer in Neelum valley.

Quoting an eyewitness, he said even though the condition of the road in the area where the vehicle veered off course was good enough, the vehicle went out of its driver’s control and dived into the river “within a wink” due to a tyre burst.

There were five adults and three children under the age of nine on board the vehicle when it met the accident.

However, two children fell outside the vehicle a little behind the riverbank and survived with injuries, he said, identifying them as Ahmed Nadir, 9, and Alina, 5, children of Nadir Kamran.

They were immediately rushed to a nearby military run health facility, from where they were shifted to the Combined Military Hospital Muzaffarabad in the evening, he added.

In the meanwhile, he said, the local rescuers pulled out the immersed vehicle with the help of ropes and recovered four bodies from inside.

They were identified as Nadir Kamran, 45, who was at the wheel, his younger brother Azam Rizwan, 39, mother Parveen Akhtar, 65, and wife Madiha Noor, 35.

Two others, Ayesha Rizwan, 27, wife of Azam Rizwan, and three and a half years old Anaya, daughter of Nadir Kamran, were believed to have been swept away by the violent current and died.

Mr Ayub said a crane had retrieved the wreckage of the vehicle shortly before sunset but no more bodies were found in it.

According to him, volunteers had also searched for the bodies all along the riverbank till sunset, but to no avail.

“We have asked the officials stationed at Nausari Dam to keep an eye on the river so that no corpse can pass by,” he added.

Azeem Sabir, brother-in-law of the deceased brothers, told Dawn by telephone from Lahore that Mr Kamran used to do a private job in Lahore and was living in a rented accommodation in Gawalmandi area. However, his family was residing in their ancestral house in Narowal.

“These people went to Faisalabad last night where they picked up Azam’s newly wed wife from her parent’s house and left for a family tour of Kashmir. Today, at around 10am, they phoned us from Muzaffarabad, informing us that they were about to leave for Neelum Valley where they may not be reached through their mobile phone networks,” Sabir said.

“Who knew that they were never going to return,” he added, in a choked voice.

Taking to Twitter, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider expressed his grief over the accident but repeated one of his earlier pieces of advice to the motorists from the planes.

“In the wake of today’s tragic accident in Neelum, I again urge all tourists not to leave for a trip before getting your vehicles fully examined. And when you are at the wheels in hilly areas please focus on the track rather than the environs because your lives are far [more] precious than everything else,” he wrote.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2021

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