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Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

43 die in Himachal’s Kullu as bus skids off road, plunges into 500-ft gorge

Local police said many of the victims were school and college who were going back home to nearby villages.

india Updated: Jun 20, 2019 23:34 IST
Naresh K Thakur
Naresh K Thakur
Hindustan Times, Dharamsala
Rescue teams led by Banjar sub-divisional magistrate MR Bhardwaj rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to the hospital with the help of local villagers.
Rescue teams led by Banjar sub-divisional magistrate MR Bhardwaj rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to the hospital with the help of local villagers. (PTI)
         

At least 43 people were killed and nearly 30 injured when a private bus skidded off a mountain road and plunged into a 500-foot gorge near Banjar in Kullu district on Thursday.

Kullu superintendent of police (SP) Shalini Agnihotri said the bus was on its way from Kullu to Gada Ghusheni and carrying at least 73 people despite having a seating strength of 42. The accident took place around 4:30 pm at Doth Mor, about two km from Banjar town.

Rescue teams led by Banjar sub-divisional magistrate MR Bhardwaj rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to the hospital with the help of local villagers. Local police said many of the victims were school and college who were going back home to nearby villages.

The SP said the deceased were being identified and casualty figure may rise because many of those undergoing treatment were in a very critical condition.The fate of driver and conductor is unknown as the identification process is still on.

Prima facie, it appeared that the driver lost control of the wheel while negotiating a sharp curve but the exact reason of the accident will be known after a thorough probe, added the SP. Overloading of the bus may also have contributed to the accident, added Banjar Patwari Sheetal Kumar.

“Deeply saddened by the bus accident in Kullu. Condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. I hope the injured recover soon. The Himachal Pradesh government is providing all possible assistance that is required,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. The Congress prayed for the quick recovery of those injured and paid tribute to the deceased.

Eyewitnesses said the spot from where the bus rolled down into the gorge had no crash barriers. Visuals from local television channels showed the mangled remains of the bus near a stream at the bottom of the gorge with villagers forming human chains to help survivors cross the gushing waters.

Governor Acharya Devvrat and chief minister Jai Ram Thakur expressed grief over the loss of lives in the accident. The CM asked the administration to provide the best possible healthcare facilities to the injured passengers. He said a magisterial inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the reason of the mishap. Transport minister Govind Singh Thakur rushed to the accident site while the Kullu district administration has provided Rs. 50,000 each as immediate relief to the kin of the deceased.

The Himalayan state is prone to deadly accidents owing to its rugged terrain, with speeding and overcrowding of vehicles adding to the risk. A survey conducted last year by the Social Welfare Council of India, an NGO, attributed 80% of the accidents in the state involving heavy vehicles, particularly buses, to human errors, 5% to technical failures and 15% to ill-maintained roads. “The state government must immediately order a summary audit of all roads, and engineers and contractors responsible for missing basic installations like crash barriers must be booked for causing countless deaths and injuries,” said Piyush Tewari, founder of SaveLIFE Foundation, an organisation working on road safety and emergency medical care.

(with agency inputs)