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Children killed in river crash

A van carrying at least 30 schoolchildren has plunged into a river in Pakistan-held Kashmir, and most of the passengers were confirmed or feared dead.

The driver lost control of the vehicle and it plunged 50ft 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, Mr Akber said. Some bodies may have been collected by local residents before authorities arrived, he said.

He said the children were returning from school after attending a function for Eid al-Fitr - the holiday that follows the traditional Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Officials initially estimated there were 30 children in the van, but the number could be higher because some of the children who attended the holiday celebration were not regular passengers, Mr Akber said.

Rescue workers managed to remove the van from the river, but they didn't find any children inside, Mr Mughal said.

"All the children washed away, and people are finding bodies alongside the river at distant places," he said.

The divided Himalayan region of Kashmir was affected by Pakistan's devastating floods that started in July, but that didn't appear to have been a factor in the crash.

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