JHELUM: A major catastrophe was averted at Chak Nizam on Sunday when a boat carrying at least 60 people and 40 motorcycles from Pind Dadan Khan to Malikwall overturned on the bank of the Jhelum River seconds after it left the mooring.
But the people managed to wade to safety, while some struggled to save their bikes, but luckily there were no casualties. “If the boat had reached the middle of the river, it would have been almost impossible to save anyone,” an eyewitness said. However, some people had lost their bikes in the River Jhelum which was running in full flow after the recent rains.
Locals said that a crossing for motorbikes using the railways’ Victoria Bridge has been closed for the past two months.
“A 15-year-old girl fell into the river while taking a selfie on the bridge on Eidul Fitr,” a resident recalled, adding that her family had staged a protest by blocking the railway track.
Following the incident, Minister for Railways Saad Rafique banned vehicular traffic on the Victoria Bridge, people said.
The ban has forced people to cross the river in rickety and overloaded boats.
A child’s death led to the ban on motorbikes on the Victoria Bridge, but the same ban may result in numerous deaths in the event of an overloaded boat overturning mid-river, locals said, urging the authorities to reopen the sole road link connecting Pind Dadan Khan and Malikwal.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2017.