Tragedy struck once again along one of the killer roads of Punjab that claimed lives of as many as 13 schoolchildren, most of them below the age of 10 years, when a brick laden truck travelling in the wrong lane collided head on with a school van near Jaheera and Gohir villages of Jalandhar district on Monday.

According to reports quoting the district police, which has registered a case, at least seven children were killed on the spot, while the school van was reduced to a badly mangled mass of metal. The other children and van driver succumbed to injuries in various hospitals where they were shifted to by the police, people of nearby villages and passers-by. At least 10 children were admitted to hospitals in Jalandhar and Nakodar. The condition of three is still critical. The driver of the truck is said to have fled the scene and was absconding till reports last came in.

The incident occurred when the van belonging to Akal Academy had picked up the children from nearby villages and was proceeding towards the school around 8:00 am. The truck, which was loaded with bricks, was seen travelling on the wrong side of the road rammed into the school van, which almost disintegrated on impact.

Reporters and police officers who reached the spot, arrived to a gut wrenching site. The road was strewn with bags, books, lunch boxes and parts of human flesh. Parents, relatives and other villagers were inconsolable.

Forty schoolchildren have died in various road mishaps through last year. The Jalandhar-Nakodar stretch is one of the accident prone roads in the State, where school buses have earned the notoriety of being called "yellow coffins".

Condolence

While the tragedy was mentioned during the proceedings of the Lok Sabha, where the Speaker, Meira Kumar expressed her grief, the Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal and his Deputy, Sukhbir Singh have sent their condolences. The State government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs two lakh to the next of kin of those who died and free medical treatment to the injured.

“My heart goes to all the family members who have lost the blooming buds in this tragic accident”, president of the Punjab unit of the Congress Captain Amarinder Singh said through a message, while underlining the need to ensure and enforce strict safety measures on roads particularly in regard to driving of the school buses. “Let us resolve that such tragedies are never allowed to recur”, he said.