NEW DELHI — At least 17 Hindu pilgrims died on Sunday in Kashmir, in northern India, when their bus plummeted 100 feet down a gorge, coming to rest in a boulder-strewn stream, the police in Kashmir said.
The pilgrims were on their way to the Amarnath cave in Kashmir, where ice forms a column considered to be a symbol of the Hindu god Shiva. The bus carrying the pilgrims slid off the road as it rounded a narrow bend and began to roll, according to local news reports.
Sixteen people were killed at the scene, and another died after being taken to a hospital, the police said. Another 28 people on the bus were hospitalized, many of them with serious injuries, according to a statement issued by the police. Video on Indian television showed local residents, police officers and soldiers forming a human chain to pull injured pilgrims out of the gorge.
When rescuers scrambled to the bottom of the gorge, they had no pathway to carry the victims back up, said Mohammed Afzal Wani, the police inspector in Banihal, where the accident took place. He said many of the injured were hoisted out with ropes.
It was the second tragedy this year to strike the annual Amarnath pilgrimage. Last Monday, gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying pilgrims back from the cave, the first large-scale attack on the pilgrimage in the disputed territory of Kashmir in more than 15 years.
More than 100,000 pilgrims, or yatris, visit the cave every year in July and August.
Dangerous roads, rickety buses and ill-trained drivers lead to frequent road fatalities in India. The state transport corporation, which owns the bus that crashed on Sunday, has ordered an investigation into the cause of the accident.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that he was “extremely pained by the loss of lives of Amarnath yatris” in the bus accident.
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