Shimla: The death toll in Wednesday's bus accident on the Kullu-Mandi national highway climbed to 40 on Thursday with the recovery of four more bodies while another four persons succumbed to their injuries.

The ill-fated private bus, which plunged into Beas River after skidding off the road, was carrying about 70 passengers.

Eyewitnesses said that the mishap occurred as the driver lost control of the vehicle while talking on his mobile phone.

The driver, who jumped off the bus before it hit the water and fled the scene, was arrested by Kullu police this morning, a release said.

Thirteen injured persons are currently undergoing treatment at a hospital in Kullu, where the condition of five of them was stated to be critical.

Police said that 35 victims have been identified with 20 of them being women. Meanwhile, the state government has ordered a magisterial probe into the accident.

DGP Kamal Kumar too has sent a team headed by AIG Rajesh Dharmani along with traffic and railway police to take over the investigation into the mishap occurred around 250-km away from the state capital.

The passengers of the over-crowded bus were on their way to attend a three-day local festival at Ani.

Efforts by rescuers to reach the wreckage of the bus to pull out bodies and look for survivors were hampered by the turbulent water of the river in this area.

Seventeen of the passengers were rescued by rafters as the site of the accident at Jhiri is a popular river rafting spot.

Kullu Deputy Commissioner Sharab Negi, who did not rule out the possibility that some passengers might have been washed away in the water of the Beas, said search operations were on along the banks of the river.

The DGP has directed the Inspector General of Police (traffic) and railways to issue guidelines for field officers that they may adopt measures which would prevent recurrence of such accidents.

(Agencies)

Latest News from Himachal Pradesh News desk