Shimla: At least 52 people, including 18 women and two children, were killed and 46 others injured on Saturday when an overcrowded private bus rolled into a gorge in Chamba in Himachal Pradesh, police said.

The bus was going to Chamba town when it skidded off the road and fell into the 300-feet deep gorge near Rajera, some 10 km from the town and around 475 km from the state capital.

"The 42-seater bus was overcrowded. People were even sitting on its roof," Chamba Deputy Commissioner Sunil Chaudhary said.

He said 39 passengers died on the spot. The injured have been admitted to hospitals in Chamba. Witnesses said the bus was overcrowded and the driver probably lost control over the vehicle while negotiating a turn. They said the administration had a tough time extricating the victims from the badly-damaged bus.

People in the area began rescue operations even before local authorities reached the spot. Most of the victims were from Chamba district. The bus driver was among the dead.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and leader of opposition Vidya Stokes expressed grief over the accident. The state government has initiated a magisterial probe into the accident.

Compensation by the government  

Of the total relief of Rs 1 lakh each announced for the family of the deceased, the district administration distributed immediate relief of Rs 10,000 each to the next of the kin of the victims, while the seriously injured were provided medical aid and relief of Rs 5,000 each.
    
Blame Game

The police blamed buses belonging to private operators and their "reckless, untrained drivers" for most of the fatal accidents in the state. Chamba is one of remotest places in the state and scarcity and low frequency of passenger buses in the district leads to overcrowding of the vehicles.

The practice of travelling on the roof of the bus is prohibited but common in Himachal Pradesh, especially during religious festivals. To prevent accidents, the government has banned use of mobile phones and music systems by drivers.

(JPN/Agencies)

Latest News from India News Desk