15 school kids die in Pakistan accident (Lead)

September 21st, 2010 - 5:52 pm ICT by IANS  

By Awais Saleem
Islamabad, Sep 21 (IANS) At least 15 children died and several were reported missing when a school van plunged into the Jhelum river in Garhi Dupatta near Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

District administration officials said over 40 people, including 30 children, were in the vehicle. The children were from an orphanage while the remaining people were staff members who were on their way to attend a party in nearby Garhi Hattian area.

Eye witnesses said the driver, Muhammad Shafiq, was driving rashly and could not control the van at a sharp turn in the hilly area. Shafiq jumped out of the vehicle before it fell down in the river and has been arrested by the police.

Three children and three staff members of the school have been rescued while over 15 others are still missing.

Rescue officials fear the death toll could rise because the rampaging river water was likely to carry the bodies several kilometres away.

Muzaffarabad Deputy Commissioner Imtiaz Ahmad said army has been called to help in the rescue efforts.

“The vehicle was not fit for school duty and we will take prompt action,” he said adding that all other school vans plying in the area would be subjected to checks.

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at ians.pakistan@gmail.com)

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