At least 15 people were killed Monday when their overloaded mini-bus rolled down a 400-feet deep gorge in Himachal Pradesh's Sirmaur district, officials said. Nearly two dozen people were injured in the accident that took place near Timbi in Shillai area, about 110 km from the state capital.
The bus was on its way from Milla village to Paonta Sahib.
Superintendent of Police Sumedha Dwivedi told IANS over phone that all the bodies have been recovered, most of them badly mutilated, from the wreckage of the bus.
The cause of the accident is yet to be ascertained but the survivors said one of the front wheels of the bus came out while the driver was at the wheel.
Police said the driver and conductor of the bus fled after the accident.
Deputy Commissioner Vikas Labroo said the government has ordered a magisterial probe into the accident and announced compensation of Rs.20,000 to the next of kin of each deceased.
Official sources said the bad condition of the road was also responsible for the accident.
Witnesses said the administration had a tough time in extricating the victims from the wreckage and local residents had started the rescue operations well before the authorities could reach the spot.
Governor Urmila Singh, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Transport Minister G.S. Bali have expressed grief over the deaths in the accident.
Sirmaur is one of remotest places in the state. Buses plying there have poor frequency, and the scarcity of means of transport often leads to overcrowding of vehicles.