Eighteen people were killed on Monday and 23 others injured, when a bus rolled down into a deep gorge on Jammu-Doda-Batote highway at Assar, 145 kms from here.

The bus, which was on its way from Doda to Jammu, fell into the gorge on the banks of river Chenab when the newly constructed road caved in, police said.

Eighteen persons have died and 23 injured, 9 of them critical, they said, adding that injured have been shifted to district hospital in Doda.

An IAF chopper is being sent to Assar to airlift the critically injured and flew them to GMC hospital here for specialised medical treatment, they said.

The police and security forces have launched a rescue operation, they said adding that death toll is likely to go up.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N.Vohra and Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad expressed grief over the loss of 18 lives in the accident.

Mr. Azad, in a message from Nepal, said the State government should take more measures to ensure curbing of such accidents in future, besides checking of overloading on all routes.

Expressing sympathy with the bereaved families, the former chief minister appealed to the State authorities to provide immediate relief to the next of the kin of the victims.

The Governor too emphasised on the need for immediate measures to ensure such incidents were not repeated.

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