A day after a private bus taking pilgrims from Punjab’s Barnala, Bathinda, Mansa and Anandpur Sahib districts to the Sikh shrine of Manikaran fell into the Parbati river in Kullu district, the Himachal Pradesh government mounted a massive rescue operation to trace the 23 passengers feared drowned. Nine bodies have been recovered so far.
Police sources said the 52-seat bus was overloaded when the accident occurred near Sarsari village on the Kullu-Bhunter road at 4.30pm on Thursday. The rescuers have still not been able to trace the bus since the river is in spate due to rain in the catchment area.
“There is still no trace of the bus. It is feared that some of the bodies are trapped in it,” Kullu deputy commissioner Rakesh Kanwar, who is overseeing the rescue, told Hindustan Times over phone on Friday.
Meanwhile, the district administration has set up three helplines for families of the victims: They are 0190 2222727, 09418067223 and 9418015754.
600 ENGAGED IN RESCUE
The Kullu district administration has deputed more than 600 people to trace the missing pilgrims, who are feared to have been swept away in the strong water current. The administarion has requisitioned the services of personnel from the Home Guards, Himachal Police, Indo Tibetan Border Police, Seema Shastra Bal besides divers from the Bhakra Beas Management Board. Local rafters from Kullu and Mandi were also engaged in rescue.
“The river water is muddy, making our task more difficult,” Kanwar said.
8 OF INJURED AT PGI
Eleven bodies were recovered till Friday afternoon.The eight who sustained serious injuries were referred to the Post-graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh.
BUS HIT HILL BEFORE SLIDING DOWN RIVER
According to sources, the bus hit the hillside before sliding down the river on Thursday evening. “From preliminary inquiry, it appears that the driver was not accustomed to driving in the hills as he lost control while negotiating a bend,” director general of police Sanjay Kumar said. He deputed additional director general of police (law and order) Sanjay Kundu to oversee the rescue. The administration has also called for help of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
ANXIOUS MOMENTS IN NATIVE VILLAGES
Family members of the victims spent a sleepless night as reports of the casualties trickled in.
Mansa sub divisional magistrate Rakesh Kumar said that of the 11 bodies recovered so far, six victims belonged to Barnala, two were from Mansa and one was from Bathinda. Two of the bodies recovered were still to be identified.
His Barnala counterpart Amarvir Singh Sidhu said that three women and three youth from the district’s Rajgarh village were on board the bus. One of the women, Amarjit Kaur, 52, had succumbed to injuries, he said. “We have sent two duty magistrates and three policemen along with one member of the families of each of the six victims to Kullu,” he added.
Tapa Mandi SDM Varinder Singh clarified that eight accident victims belonged to Pakho Kalan, while three were visitors from Kishangarh village in Mansa. Three victims from Pakho Kalan were injured and five were still missing.
Bhadaur naib tehsildar Rajinder Singh, who was at the control room set up in Kullu, said: “All injured from Pakho Kalan and Rajgarh are out of danger. In fact, some of them have been discharged from hospital.”
(With inputs by Mohammad Ghazali from Mansa and BB Goyal in Barnala)
List of the injured
(1) Gurvinder Kaur, 25, from Barnala
(2) Manpreet Kaur, 5, Barnala
(3) Dilkaur, 3
(4) Kewal Singh, 38, Bathinda
(5) Sandeep Kaur, 22, Bathinda
(6) Raj Kumar, 45, conductor
(7) Paramjeet Kaur, 45, Barnala
(8) Tejender Pal Singh, 21, Barnala
(9) Driver Surjeet Singh, 35, Barnala
(10) Gurmeet Singh, 25, Mansa
(11) Sukhdev Singh, 30, Talwandi Sabo
(12) Harjeet Singh, 24, Mansa
(13) Balwandir Singh, 32, Barnala
(14) Balwinder Singh, 23, Barnala
(15) Surender Kaur, 51, Raigarh
(16) Gurdeep Kaur, 28, Barnala
(17) Gurvinder, 9, Barnala
(18) Gurnam Kaur, 65, Bathinda
(19) Harbajan Singh, 55, Barnala
(20) Nika, 30, Rajgarh
(21) Aman Deep, 18, Bathinda
(22) Nikka Singh, 25, Jogga
(23) Jagdeep Singh, 19, Mansa