The country was shocked to hear the news of the catastrophic accident that took place on Sunday, where 22 students were swept away by currents in Neelum Valley after the disintegration of a hanging bridge. After the incident resulted in 12 dead, with several bodies missing, rescuers from the armed forces and civilian departments struggled throughout the day on Monday to retrieve the remaining bodies of the victims but could find only one.
The tragedy of the incident is highlighted when one considers that most of those inflicted were college students on a school trip. The incident took place in the Jagran Nullah in Kundal Shahi area of Neelum Valley after a footbridge that the tourists were standing on tumbled down due to overweight.
The scenic bridges and rivers of Neelum Valley may appear beautiful but have a pernicious and dangerous side. This is not the first fatal accident that has occurred along the streams of Kashmir, where a previous incident in July claimed the lives of 3 children in a family of 5. A former AJK minister blamed “dereliction of duty, improvidence and ineptitude” on the part of the administration and police for the tragedy.
It is a blessing for Pakistan to be gifted with such scenic sights as Kashmir, and increased tourism is certainly a boost for the country’s economy and image. However, if tourism efforts are to be successful, there need to be measures taken by the provincial and federal government to ensure safety and security, as well as fast response rate for any tragedies or accidents. Most importantly, there needs to be strict registration and checking of travel companies to ensure they have the proper knowledge and orientation of these hilly sites, in order to prevent such tragedies.