MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — A van carrying at least 30 schoolchildren plunged into a river in Pakistan-held Kashmir on Tuesday, and most of the passengers were confirmed or feared dead.
The driver lost control of the vehicle and it plunged 50 feet (15 meters) into the Jhelum River from an elevated road in the regional capital Muzaffarabad, said local police chief Ghulam Akber. Authorities managed to save the driver and four children, he said.
But school teacher Bashir Mughal said rescue workers took more than an hour to arrive and it was local villagers who plucked the four children from the water.
Fifteen bodies have been recovered from various parts of the river, but the other children are still missing, Akber said. Some bodies may have been collected by local residents before authorities arrived, he said.
Mohammad Ramzan, a driver from Kanina village — home to most of the children in the van — said he lost four daughters and one son in the accident.
"God had given me those children and he has taken them away," Ramzan said, as his wife cried. "All I can do is live with the sadness of this tragedy my whole life."
The children involved in the accident were returning from school after attending a function for Eid al-Fitr — the holiday that follows the traditional Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, said Akber, the local police chief.