Saturday, 13 July 2013

Disaster-prone salt range: Ten perish in motorway bus crash

Another deadly bus accident in the salt range near Kallar Kahar occurred on Friday, when a passenger bus overturned on the motorway, killing at least ten and injuring fifteen others.

The Faisalabad-bound bus left Rawalpindi with 50 passengers onboard. While going down a steep slope, the brakes failed and the bus hit the median and jumped the divider, flipped over and slid onto the northbound section of the highway, pinning many passengers under its weight.

The police said that six people including the driver, a woman and a child, died on the spot, while six were critically injured and were rescued by cutting through the vehicle’s frame.

The motorway authorities’ initial inquiry attributed the accident to driver error leading to brake failure.

“He lost control over the bus after he put it in neutral on entering the salt range. When he applied the brakes, they failed to respond,” said a National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP) officer.

Most of the passengers belonged to Faisalabad and Jhang districts. NHMP emergency vehicles were the first to arrive at the scene. However, witnesses said that even before their arrival, passersby started shifting the injured to the nearby Chakwal District Headquarters Hospital in their private vehicles.

The police said at least two bodies were unidentifiable and that four of the critically wounded were later shifted to Rawalpindi District Headquarters Hospital. At least one of the sixteen who were shifted to Chakwal Hospital died in hospital.

Police said the accident occurred near the entrance to the salt range and not the narrow turn referred to as “229” by the police. The 229 bend is a few metres ahead of the salt range entrance and has seen more than 200 accidents occur there, including a number of deadly ones.

The deadliest accident occurred two years ago, when a Faisalabad-bound bus overloaded with students overturned in similar fashion, killing more than thirty students and injuring several others. The Supreme Court also took note of the accident.

“The fitness certificate of this bus was valid for another year, so there was nothing mechanically wrong with the vehicle,” NHMP officials told The Express Tribune.

The police have taken multiple preventive measures in the salt range, including the placement of speed-breakers on narrow turns, to control the rising number of accidents in the area, but these measures have failed to serve as a significantly effective deterrent.

NHMP officials also record videos on all passenger busses when they enter the motorway in order to keep tabs on overloading. The police identified six of the bodies in Chakwal District Headquarters Hospital as Mahnoor Shakeel from Sumandri, Faisalabad, Umar Ali Shah of Malhu Mor, Jhang, Iqra Shafqat, Naeem Hayat and Shahbaz Shaaban, all from Cheecha Watani, Sahiwal and the driver Muhammad Iqbal.

At least two of the bodies in Chakwal could not be identified due to the severity of their injuries.

Saturday 13 July 2013


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