Islamabad: At least seven medical students drowned and nine others are 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 Neelum 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 and the visitors tumbled down into the stream, the daily said.
Rescue teams have recovered at least seven bodies from the water while search operation for the rest is under way.
The injured students were shifted to a local hospital and later flown to Combined Military Hospital 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.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has directed the deputy commissioner to speed up rescue efforts and ensure anyone responsible for negligence is brought to book.
President of PoK Sardar Masood Khan expressed his deepest grief and sorrow over the tragic incident, according to a statement by his office.
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed grief over the incident and directed all possible assistance to civil administration for relief and rescue.