A huge boulder rolled down the 100-feet high Siar Baba waterfall in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district on Sunday killing at least seven people and injuring 33 others who were taking bath at the spot, a popular weekend getaway, police said.
Several youngsters were among those bathing under the waterfall at Talwara, 10 kilometers from Reasi town, when the loose rock and other debris fell on them, Senior Superintendent of Police, Reasi, Tahir Sajad Bhat told PTI.
Seven people were killed and the condition of three of the 33 injured was stated to be ‘critical’, he added.
A large number of people had gathered at the spot to spend their Sunday holiday. Many of them were bathing under the waterfall, one of the biggest in northern India, when the incident occurred around 3.30 pm, officials said.
The others present at the scene rushed to rescue those trapped under the debris and were later joined by the police, Army and the CRPF rescuers with JCB machines and other equipment, a police official.
After hours of search, the rescue operation was called off in the evening, he added.
Six of the dead were identified as Sachin Kumar, Sunny Kumar, Lucky, Kamal Sharma, Priti Gupta and Darshana Devi, all residents of Jammu district, an official said.
The identity of the seventh deceased was being ascertained, he added.
Most of the injured were also residents of Jammu district and included eight boys and girls besides seven women, the official said.
The injured included Ashok Kumar and his five-year-old son, residents of Uttar Pradesh, officials said.
The injured were shifted to the Reasi district hospital in private cars, as the administration alerted the hospital authorities and additional staff, including doctors and paramedics, was rushed to attend to the injured, an officer said.
Many people involved in the rescue operation, however, complained that only one doctor was present at the hospital at the time when the injured people were rushed there for treatment.
On receiving information, Army and CRPF personnel with mobile medical teams rushed to the scene and joined the relief and rescue operations, the officer said.
A CRPF spokesman said the commandant of the 126th battalion, Pradeep Singh Kailey, along with medical and quick action team of the unit rushed to the spot and provided all necessary assistance to the injured at district hospital Reasi.
The area was searched to ensure no other injured was left there, the spokesman said.
Governor N N Vohra expressed grief over the loss of lives in the “unfortunate hill slide incident” and asked the Chief Executive Officer, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Dheeraj Gupta to ensure that the cost of the treatment provided to the injured was borne by the shrine board.
Gupta informed the governor that 31 people were receiving treatment at the shrine board super speciality hospital at Kakriyal. Of these, the condition of three was “critical”, according to officials.
National Conference leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah expressed grief and shock over the incident. “My heart goes out to all those who lost their dear ones in the tragic incident,” Abdullah said in a statement here.
BJP state chief Ravinder Raina also expressed grief and sorrow over the incident and said his party would press for adequate compensation to the bereaved families.