The injured soldiers were airlifted to an army hospital in the Himalayan region’s capital city Srinagar, some 90 km from the crash site in Chandanwari, Anantnag district.
The incident took place around 10am on Tuesday in the mountainous region, which has narrow and sometimes deadly roads.
The passengers included 39 soldiers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force, a federal force specialising in high-altitude operations mainly on the India-China border, and two members of the Jammu and Kashmir police force.
The troops were travelling from the high-altitude cave shrine of Amarnath to a police control room in Srinagar.
They had been posted to the area for the Amarnath Yatra, which ended last week. The Amarnath Yatra, or journey, is an annual Hindu pilgrimage where thousands perform a perilous trek in the Himalayas to a cave shrine situated around 3,900m above sea level.
“I’m deeply saddened by the tragic accident in J&K where 7 ITBP personnel lost lives,” Dr Sujoy Lal Thaosen, ITBP director general, said in a tweet.
“My heartfelt condolences to the family of the bereaved. I stand with them in this hour of grief. We are taking care of the injured & wish for their speedy recovery.”
— editorji (@editorji) August 16, 2022
Officials said the preliminary cause of the accident in the southern Pahalgam area is suspected to be brake failure, but details will be revealed after an investigation.
“It appears the brakes of the bus, operated by Jammu and Kashmir police, failed and the bus slipped off the road. A formal enquiry has been ordered,” an ITBP official said.
Visuals from the crash site showed the remains of the bus in a gorge near the fast-flowing Lidder river as soldiers carried out rescue work.
Around 19 ambulances were rushed to the crash site following the accident to carry out a massive rescue operation.
Deeply pained to learn about loss of lives of our brave #ITBP personnel in a tragic bus accident in chandanwari #pahalgam .My heartfelt condolences to bereaved families in this hour of grief. Prayers for speedy recovery of injured. pic.twitter.com/NIWN4W9o5X
— Parvaiz Ahmad Qadri (@Parvaiz_Qadri) August 16, 2022
The death toll is expected to rise as at least eight personnel have reportedly suffered serious injuries and are in a critical condition.
India’s president Droupadi Murmu offered her condolences for the deaths of the soldiers, calling it a tragic loss of precious lives.
“The tragic loss of precious lives of ITBP personnel in the unfortunate accident at Anantnag, J&K fills me with sadness. My heartfelt condolences for the bereaved families. I pray for speedy recovery of the injured,” said Ms Murmu.
“Anguished to learn about the accident of a bus carrying ITBP and police personnel in Pahalgam, J&K. My prayers and thoughts are with the bereaved families. The injured were rushed to the hospital. May they recover at the earliest,” Amit Shah, the federal home minister whose ministry oversees seven central paramilitary forces, said in a tweet.