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Tragedy near Pune: 33 killed after bus falls into gorge near Mahabaleshwar

One survives accident; victims were staff members of an agricultural varsity in Dapoli

pune Updated: Jul 29, 2018 14:22 IST
tragedy near Pune,33 killed,gorge
The mangled remains of the mini-bus that fell into the 800-ft gorge, off Ambenali ghat in Raigad district on Saturday morning. (HT PHOTOS )

At least 33 employees of the Dr Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth at Dapoli were feared dead after a mini bus carrying 34 people fell into a 800-ft gorge, off Ambenali ghat in Raigad district on Saturday morning.

Assistant superintendent Prakash Sawant-Desai from the university’s agricultural engineering department was the lone survivor as he got thrown off the falling bus and got caught in a tree. It was an injured Desai who climbed up the gorge and called for help on his mobile phone.

Sawant-Desai told reporters that near Poladpur, the bus reportedly lost control after skidding on wet mud that had collected on the treacherous stretch.

“I managed to climb up and called up Dr Balasaaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth authorities and the police,” he said.

According to the police, the accident happened around 11.30 am on the ghat with sharp bends. Vijay Suryavanshi, Raigad district collector, said there were 34 occupants in the minibus, including two drivers, who were also employees of the university. The cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained, he said, adding that it was raining and there was also dense fog in this part of the Western ghats.

According to Ketan Chaudhary, the university registrar, the bus was carrying non-teaching staff from the agricultural engineering department. Dealing with exams, finance and administration, this group had applied to go on a study tour to the regional wheat rust research station at Mahabaleshwar.

“This was partly an outing and partly a study tour and such visits by university teams happens frequently,” a university employee said. Two employees who were originally to join this group opted out at the last moment due to other engagements.

The accident occurred at the jurisdiction of Poladpur police station under Raigad police jurisdiction. The accident site in the gorge was making it difficult for the rescue teams to reach out and pull out the survivors, if any, from below the smashed bus. Till 7.20 pm, 13 bodies had been recovered and 11 handed over to the relatives. The district administration ensured that each body was accompanied by a driver and attendant and was handed over to the relatives who had gathered at Poladpur primary health centre.

Five rescue teams were engaged in the operations along with a team of 30 personnel from the national disaster response force (NDRF), Pune. Another rescue team was expected in the morning tomorrow. While traffic had been stopped on both sides of the Ambenali ghat to assist rescue operations, diesel gensets had been placed at the site with powerful halogen lamps to light up the area for the rescue operations.

“One person was thrown off the bus and survived to tell what happened,” said police inspector Balkrushna Jadhav of Raigad police. Local rescuers, police and the NDRF personnel were among those deployed for rescue operations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi expressed sorrow over the accident. “Pained by the loss of lives due to a bus accident in Maharashtra’s Raigad district. My condolences to those who lost their loved ones,” the PM tweeted. Gandhi tweeted: “I appeal to Congress workers in the area to provide all possible assistance to the injured and families of those who have died.”

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai said he was pained to learn about the massive loss of lives in the accident.

“Victims were employees of agricultural university, going on a picnic. We will provide help to the kin of the deceased, but will also take steps to ensure such incidents don’t take place in the future,” said Fadnavis, according to news agency ANI.

The Maharashtra government announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of those who died. The government will also bear the medical expenses of those injured, reported ANI.

First Published: Jul 29, 2018 14:22 IST