About 25 people were feared drowned after a New Delhi-Amritsar Punjab Roadways bus skidded off an overbridge and plunged into the Bhakra main line canal here in the wee hours of Wednesday. The accident took place around 3 am near the Sirhind floating restaurant on National Highway No 1. The spot is located about 50 km from Chandigarh and nearly 35 km from Patiala.
Built during the British era, the overbridge was in bad shape and the iron railing was broken at several points. The bus rammed into the railing before falling into the canal. The gushing waters took it 3 km downstream from the accident spot. The vehicle eventually got stuck in the Sondh village water works.
The bus had left New Delhi at 9 pm on Tuesday and entered Punjab at the Shambu barrier at 1:10 am, as per video footage of the toll plaza on NH-1.
Punjab Roadways director Sumer Singh Gurjar said the bus had 25 passengers on board, along with driver Surinder Singh of Bhikhiwind (Tarn Taran) and conductor Raman Kumar of Batala (Gurdaspur), when it left Delhi. "We have no information about how many passengers later boarded or alighted from the bus," he said.
Local officials were informed by morning walkers that a bus had obstructed the water works. Subsequently, the administration launched a rescue operation.
Three bodies had been fished out so far, of which one was identified as that of Neeraj Kumar, a resident of Bulandshahar (Uttar Pradesh). The body was handed over to family members.
"Video footage of the toll plaza at the Shambu barrier indicates that there were 15 to 20 passengers on board. After that, there were two major towns, Rajpura and Sirhind, on the route. We are trying to confirm the final figure of passengers," said Gurmeet Singh Chauhan, senior superintendent of police (SSP), Fatehgarh Sahib.
The SSP said the exact cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained, adding that the driver probably dozed off or the bus developed some technical fault.
Fatehgarh Sahib deputy commissioner Arun Sekhri said the chances of finding survivors were remote.
CM announces Rs. 1 lakh ex gratia
Patiala: Expressing shock and grief over the Sirhind mishap, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday announced ex gratia grant of Rs. 1 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and free medical treatment to the injured, if any. On the CM's directions, transport minister Ajit Singh Kohar and irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon visited the site and supervised the rescue operation.
Patiala: 9592912500 (SSP's office); 9592912503 (SP, detective)
Fatehgarh Sahib: 01763-232838 (district administrative complex); 01763-223100 (SSP's office)
Amritsar: 100; 9781130551 (control room)