GILGIT    -   At least 27 people, including 10 Pakistan Army soldiers, eight women and four children, were killed and 18 others injured when a Rawalpindi-bound passenger bus hit a mountain on Babusar Pass in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan on Sunday.

The MashaBroom bus was travelling from Skardu to Rawalpindi when its driver lost control of the bus near Babusar Pass as a result it hit the mountain.

Police officer Muhammad Irfan Khokhar said brakes of the bus carrying 45 passengers failed while negotiating a turn at the mountain pass, adding some people were travelling to their work places in east Punjab.

“The accident was so serious that 22 people died right at the spot while five others succumbed to injuries later at hospital, and most of the injured are also in critical condition,” Khokhar said.

Police sources said the bus was already exceeding the safety speed limits, and the failure of brakes made the situation even worse.

The bus left Skardu in the wee hours of Sunday and the accident happened at 9:30 am and that most of the injured belonged to Skardu.

Other police officials said the bus was taking a sharp turn when the driver lost control. A police official told newsmen that rescuers were facing difficulties in the remote mountainous terrain due to a lack of necessary equipment and resources.

Victims including women and children were shifted to a nearby hospital where an emergency has been declared. Soon after the accident, other vehicles on the road stopped and the people started making efforts to shift the injured to District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) in Chilas.

According to a passenger, no ambulance and rescue team had arrived in the area even after one hour of the accident. Due to delayed rescue operation, the number of casualties had increased.

Later, Army troops undertook rescue and relief operation for victims of the bus accident.

Pakistan Army aviation helicopters airlifted injured to Combined Military Hospital Gilgit for medical treatment, according to a news release of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).

The bodies of the passengers including 10 Army soldiers who lost lives in the mishap have also been shifted to CMH Gilgit.

GB Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman and Force Commander Northern Areas Saqib Mehmood visited CMH Gilgit and inquired after the injured.

GB Force Commander Major General Ahsan Mehmood, along with other Army officials and rescue team, rushed to the area and district hospital in Chilas to monitor the rescue activities. Later, he sent Army helicopters to shift the inured to CMH Gilgit and the bodies to Gilgit and Skardu.

Meanwhile, President Dr Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed grief over the loss of precious lives and prayed for the salvation of departed souls.

The Babusar Pass road, frequently used by tourists, remains open from the end of June to October every year. It is then closed following heavy snowfall at Babusar Top. The route presents the quickest road means to travel to Gilgit-Baltistan from Islamabad.

Pakistan has a poor traffic safety record, with frequent fatal accidents blamed on reckless driving, bad roads and shoddily maintained vehicles.

Last month, a speeding bus fell off a mountainous road into a river in the northwest, killing 24 passengers.

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, around 9,000 road accidents are reported every year, killing around 4,000 people.