At least 51 people, including 18 women and two children, were killed and 46 others were injured when the private bus they were travelling in rolled down a 275-ft deep gorge near Rajera, 12 km from Chamba in Himachal Pradesh, on Saturday morning.
“So far, 51 deaths have been recorded,” said deputy commissioner of Chamba, Sunil Chaudhary. He added that 39 people died on the spot while nine succumbed to their injuries soon after and three more died in the Zonal hospital at Chamba.
The 42-seater bus, on its way to Chamba from Dulera, was carrying over 100 passengers with many of them sitting on the roof when tragedy struck, said police. “Since it was a holiday, many villagers were going to Chamba to shop at the Mijar fair which ends on Sunday,” said Chaudhary.
He said tragedy struck around 9:00 am when the bus driver lost control over the vehicle while negotiating a turn. The police and medical teams were rushed to the spot soon after the news reached the town. Meanwhile, people from neighbouring villages rescued people and rushed the injured to hospitals in private vehicles.
“The rescue operation is over and all the bodies have been recovered. The post-mortem of 37 people was conducted on the spot and the bodies were handed over to relatives,” said Chaudhary. An eye eyewitness, Vijay Singh said, “The bus rolled several times over and its roof was torn apart even as the conductor had a miraculous escape.”
Most of the victims were from nearby villages of Dularo, Rajera and Gaggla.
The government has announced Rs. 1 lakh as relief to the next of the kin of the deceased. The injured will be given up to Rs. 10,000.
The government has also ordered a magisterial probe into the incident.
Himachal Pradesh governor Urmila Singh and CM Prem Kumar Dhumal expressed grief over the incident.