Nearly 50 passengers are feared dead after two Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation buses were swept away by a massive landslide in Mandi district. Death of eight passengers are declared dead while the fate of others others was not known.
Himachal Transport minister GS Bali said the toll could climb to 50 in the incident which took place last night. The incident happened a little after midnight on the National Highway connecting Manali and Mandi. One of the buses was going from Manali to Katra and another from Manali to Chamba.
The landslide happened at Kotrupi, 220 kilometres from Shimla. The police said the two buses were parked on the highway while the passengers were out for snacks just before the landslide happened. It swept away the buses 800 metres down into a gorge and buried one of the buses completely.
The number of passengers in the buses could be between 40 and 50 as the number of passengers who boarded the bus en route was not known.
The Army and NDRF teams have reached the spot and started rescue operation along with the police, administration and local people. The IG central range and Deputy Commissioner and SP are on the spot, he added.
Director General of Police Somesh Goyal said that as per preliminary information there were eight passengers in the Manali-Katra Volvo bus while 47 passengers were travelling in the other bus.
Authorities have been directed to arrange for on the spot postmortem, he added. So far eight bodies have been recovered which included the driver and the conductor of Chamba depot bus Chanden Sharma and Satpal.
This is the third such incident in Himachal. Earlier 45 bus passengers were buried in a landslide near Matiyana in Shimla district in 1988 and 42 passengers were buried in another mishap at Luggar Hati in Kullu district in 1994.