Fifteen people, including five women, were killed and over 30 injured when an overloaded private bus rolled down a gorge near Dhaain Nullah, 30km from Dalhousie in Chamba district, at 4.30 pm on Friday.
The ill-fated bus (HP-47-2477) was on its way from Sanghni to Banikhet when the incident took place. Two of the deceased belonged to Sangrur district Punjab.
The police said seven people died on the spot. The injured were rushed to primary health centres at Banikhet and Bathri and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation’s medical centre at Khairi. The seriously injured were referred to Dr Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College, Tanda, in Kangra district.
“The survivors said the driver lost control as he was busy talking on his mobile phone,” Dalhousie MLA Asha Kumari told HT over telephone. A case of negligent driving has been registered. Area residents assisted the police and home guards in rescue operation.
“The death toll would have been less had the injured been rushed to the hospital on time. The 108 ambulances arrived late despite repeated calls,” said a local resident. Most of the passengers were employees who were on their way home after the day’s work.
The district administration has given an immediate relief of Rs 10,000 each to the kin of the deceased and Rs 5,000 each to the injured.
Himachal governor Acharya Dev Vrat and chief minister Virbhadra Singh have expressed grief over the passengers’ death.