Neelam Valley. (Image source: Google Maps) Photograph:( Others )
At least seven medical students drowned and nine others were missing as a wooden bridge on a river in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir collapsed while the students were taking pictures on it.
Around 25 students, in their early 20s, from two private colleges in Faisalabad and Lahore, were taking pictures on the bridge in Neelam Valley when it collapsed, officials were quoted as saying by the Express Tribune.
The temporarily erected hanging bridge could not withstand the load of people standing on it and came down, tumbling the visitors down in the stream, the daily said.
As per reports, 14 students were rescued after the bridge collapsed and that civil and military rescue teams were searching for 11 others.
The injured students were shifted to a local hospital and later flown to Combined Military Hospital (CMH) through army helicopters.
"We recovered seven dead bodies and 11 injured tourists from the stream while at least nine people were still missing," Commissioner Muzaffarabad Imtiaz Ahmed said. The students were on a college trip.
The Pakistan Army is assisting in the rescue and search operation. However, the extremely cold water of the stream and its strong current are hampering efforts to recover the persons, the officials said, adding that there was little hope of finding survivors.
Officials were quoted as saying that the bridge could only withstand a maximum of four persons and had relevant warning signs for the purpose as well but the tourists still thronged the bridge.
Kashmir Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan also reached the scene to personally supervise the rescue operation. He directed the deputy commissioner of the district to accelerate the search.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has expressed grief and sorrow over the incident in Neelam Valley and directed the authorities concerned to make utmost efforts in rescue operation.
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed grief over the incident and directed all possible assistance to civil administration for relief and rescue.
On July 7 last year, a tourist family from Rawalpindi also faced a similar tragedy when three of its young members were swept away around the same spot.