Sardar Masood Khan, President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, has expressed deepest grief and condolences over the loss of many precious lives after the incident at Kundal Shahi in Neelum Valley on May 13th. He said this was a national tragedy which is being mourned by the families and the people of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. The President expressed his profound sympathies with the families of the deceased and the injured. He also paid tribute to rescuers who rushed to save the victims of the accident.

President Masood Khan said that this tragic accident has once again highlighted the importance of making tourism safe. More attention, he said, is needed to be given to sound infrastructure and awareness raising so that incoming tourists may pay heed to the signposts and cautionary warnings about the capacity of the infrastructure and safe locations near peaks and precipeses. Every year, many precious lives are lost because of lack of attention to such warnings given for the safety of tourists. It is therefore important that tour operators are properly briefed and trained, and even individual tourists and families are oriented to the risks in particular terrains, he said.

At the same time, the President said that all structures handling tourists must be fortified and strengthened, and signposts made more visible, repetitive and clearer, so that untoward accidents can be avoided. Rescue systems also need to be made more responsive, efficient and effective in tourist areas, particularly in hilly terrains where there is always a risk of accidents; and therefore there would be enhanced investment in preparedness and response.

He said that in the coming summer and coming years the number of tourists to Azad Kashmir and the Neelum Valley in particular will increase and all safety and security precautions need to be taken by the tourism department, local administration and especially tourists. What we need, he said, is responsible tourism by all.

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