In a shocking incident, 16 Amarnath pilgrims were killed and around 31 were seriously injured, when a bus skidded off the Jammu-Srinagar national highway and rolled into a deep nullah in the Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir today.

The deceased included two women and belonged to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Assam, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh and injured persons were critical shifted to a local hospital for treatment, said officials.

According to police officials, 16 persons were killed and around 31 were injured in the accident. Out of them, 21 were airlifted in a chopper to Jammu for specialised treatment and 10 were shifted to a Srinagar hospital.

The bus was part of a convoy carrying 3,603 pilgrims from Jammu to the twin base-camps of Baltal and Pahalgam for the pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed pain at the loss of lives and announced an exgratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured.

Police, Army and CRPF, with help from locals, launched rescue operation and brought out the dead and injured from the nullah, they said.

The JKSRTC ordered an in-house inquiry into the road accident.

“An in-house inquiry committee has been constituted to look into the circumstances that led to this tragic accident involving an SRTC bus carrying the Amarnath yatris,” its Managing Director Mir Afroz Ahmad said.

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed condolences at the losses of lives.

Home Minister Singh spoke to Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra and Chief Minister Mufti and took stock of the situation, officials said.

This is the second major tragedy to affect the Amarnath yatris this year.

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