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Katra bus fire: NIA team visits scene, collected samples

JAMMU: A team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday inspected the passenger bus that was gutted in a mysterious fire incident near Katra town, the base camp for pilgrims visiting Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.

Four persons were killed and 24 others injured when the moving bus, mostly ferrying devotees, caught fire near Nomai, about three kilometers from Katra, shortly after leaving for Jammu from the base camp on Friday.

Though the survivors and the people residing in the vicinity of the incident spoke about hearing an explosion in the bus, Additional Director General (ADG) of Police, Jammu zone, Mukesh Singh, who inspected the scene, said the initial probe does not point to use of any explosive.

"The bus caught fire on its way from Katra to Jammu. The cause of the fire is not confirmed yet," Singh had told reporters, adding a forensic team is looking into it.

A specially trained NIA explosive team visited the spot around 3.30 PM and collected samples during their one-and-a-half-hour stay there, the officials said.

They said the team was briefed by a senior police officer about the incident.

Expressing grief over the incident, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs one lakh to the seriously injured.

The National Conference and the Congress have expressed shock and grief over the incident and demanded a probe.

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah condoled the loss of and prayed for fast recuperation of the injured.

"It is expected that the concerned departments will depute a team to ascertain the causes behind the tragedy," the former chief ministers said in a joint statement.

J&K Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma termed the incident as "heart-wrenching" and said an in-depth investigation is needed to rule out any mischief.

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PTI