At least seven students were killed, eight injured and 14 others are still missing as 26 tourist students from Lahore, Faisalabad and Sahiwal drowned when a hanging bridge collapsed in Kundal Shahi area of Neelum district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Sunday, the district administration stated.

A rescue worker tries to help others get across after a makeshift bridge is used as a temporary solution

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the incident. Deputy Commissioner of Neelum District Raja Shahid Mehmood said that some 72 tourist students were traveling in three different coaches to the Neelum Valley. Some of the students among them later visited Kundal Shahi, a tourist spot of Kuton Jagran and at least 26 students gathered on the Jagran hanging bridge built on a deep gulch for taking their selfies, ignoring the warning mentioned on the board of the bridge. The bridge collapsed due to overweight and the students fell into the deep speedy water.

According to DC Neelum, the police and local people promptly reacted and came to their rescue. After hectic efforts, some four bodies were recovered from the river and eight injured students were rushed to the District Hospital Athmuqam whereas 14 more students were missing.

Police officials stated that 25 tourists tried to take clicks on a bridge, located over the Jagran Nullah in Kundal Shahi area. The bridge — which collapsed — had the only capacity to withstand the weight of up to five persons. However, the tourists ignored the warning signs and bridge collapsed, resulting in seven deaths. Officials have stated that the death toll may soar as the operation continued. Three of the bodies were identified as Shahzeb, Abdul Rehman and Muhammad Zubair from Tips College, Faisalabad, whereas, Anum, D/o Matloob, Anisa Bibi and Waleed Sajjid got injured.

Throngs of horrified onlookers stand to watch as rescuers scramble to find bodies in the water

The district officials said that rescue workers had been extended to recover the rest of the missing students from the nullah. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expressed his deep grief and sorrow over the Neelum Valley mishap. He has directed all the departments concerned to expedite the rescue efforts, the PM Office Media Wing said in a press release.

INP adds: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the bridge collapse incident in the Neelum Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a statement issued here on Sunday said that army chief General Bajwa has directed for all possible assistance, while Pakistan Army’s rescue and relief efforts continued and a special SSG divers team was sent for the search operation.

Army troops along with doctors and paramedics also reached the incident site. Two Pakistan Army helicopters and SSG special divers were flown to the site of the incident. Four dead bodies and 11 injured have been evacuated by a helicopter from Shahkot to Muzaffarabad, the ISPR statement said.

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