Monday, May 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

40 feared dead as bus falls into canal
Tribune News Service

ROPAR, May 14 — At least 40 passengers were feared drowned when a Punjab Roadways bus plunged into the Sirhind canal here this morning. Till late in the evening 15 bodies were flushed out and six identified.

A roadways driver, Mr Bhupinder Singh, two special police officers, Mr Jagdish Singh Fauji and Mr Ram Sahai, and one constable, Sugreev Chand who happened to be near the site of the mishap dived into the water and managed to save at least five passengers. They also dragged some bodies to the banks .

For their act of bravery, the government has announced an award of Rs 5,000 for each.

The accident took place at around 11.25 am when the left front tyre of the ill-fated Amritsar depot bus, (Pb 2 S 9914), burst. The driver, Roshan Lal, lost control and the bus hit the railing of the bridge and fell into the 10-feet-deep canal with 9,200 cusecs of water.

The bus was turned and tossed by the water current. Passing from under the bridge, it came to rest some 200 ft downstream .

There were, according to passengers who were rescued, at least 45 passengers on the bus, which left Chandigarh at 10 am. It was on its way to Amritsar.

The Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has expressed sorrow over the accident. He has announced a grant of Rs 50,000 to the next of kin of those who have died and Rs 25,000 to the injured. The district administration has also announced help for the survivors.

The government has instituted an inquiry into the accident. This was announced by the Minister of Food and Supplies, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, here. The Ropar Sub-divisional Magistrate, Mr Shivdyal Singh Dhillon, will conduct the enquiry.

As word about the mishap spread in the town, a large crowd gathered at either side of the canal. There was a traffic jam on the main highway. The police had a tough time keeping curious onlookers at bay and also ensuring that the traffic continued to move.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr G.S. Grewal, contacted the irrigation authorities and got the gates shut to cut supply of water into the canal. By late afternoon, the water was knee-deep.

Soon cranes were deployed to fish out the wreckage. There were no bodies inside. Mr Grewal said a general alert was sounded to other districts to look for the bodies.

About 20-odd local divers were commissioned to screen the canal-bed, Senior Superintendent of Police, Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, who was supervising the rescue operations, said.

In the Civil Hospital, doctors told TNS that the conductor, Naresh Kumar, who had received head injuries and some fractures, was rushed to the PGI in Chandigarh. Another injured Gurmit Kaur, belonging to Badhmajra village near Mohali was also sent to the PGI.

Survivors, who swam to the banks, Ram Sewak and Rattan Babu, two Bihari labourers working for a Chandigarh-based contractor and still in a state of shock, told TNS that they could not remember what had exactly happened as they were asleep at the time of the mishap. They had boarded the bus at Chandigarh for Amritsar.

All they heard was a “big noise” and saw the driver desperately manoeuvring the steering wheel.

The bus was at a “high speed”. And then they were trapped inside the bus which was soon filled with water. The bus turned and overturned as it swept downstream with the current of the water.

“Hum nahin jante hum kaise bach ke nikle. Upparwala janta hai” (We do not know how we have been saved. God alone knows).

They have lost their meagre belongings — clothes and a stove, besides Rs 8,000 in cash. They were provided with clothes, chappals and food by the hospital, said Dr Gurjit Singh, Senior Medical Officer.

Another lucky survivor was Piara Singh, who had retired from the roadways. This 65-year-old man said he owed his “rebirth” to the “Waheguru”. Piara Singh said he woke up to a loud bang and found himself trapped in the bus submerged in water. He tried to swim to the bank, but could not succeed.

“Then someone grabbed me. Soon two more persons dragged me to the bank. Here I am, lucky to be alive,” he sighed as he showed minor bruises and cuts on his legs.

His HMT ‘Janata” watch had stopped at 11.25. “That was the time when the accident took place”, he added, was visibly shaken.

Mr Grewal said each of the survivors was given Rs 2,000 to enable them to reach their respective destinations .

The ministers, Mr Tara Singh Ladal, Mr Mittal, and Mrs Satwant Kaur Sandhu also rushed to the accident site.

Several senior officials, including the Secretary, Transport, Mrs Tejinder Kaur, the Director, State Transport, Mr S.S. Gill, and the General Manager, Punjab Roadways, Ropar depot, Mr Jagdeep Singh were at hand. Search operations were on when reports last came.



A lucky survivor of bus mishap
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, May 14 — Desperately clutching to a nylon bag, 45-year-old Gurmeet Kaur safely floated to the bank of the Sirhind canal, into which the ill fated Punjab Roadways carrying nearly 45 passengers fell this morning.

It was indeed a miraculous escape for Gurmeet Kaur. She managed to float nearly 100 metres with the help of the bag before she reached the bank and was pulled out by rescuers. She was rushed to the Civil Hospital, Ropar, immediately but since she had sustained head injuries, she was referred to the PGI.

Lying in pain at the PGI surgical emergency, she thanks God for her being a fortunate survivor of this terrible mishap. Though she is reported to be in a stable condition, she is being treated for head injury and blunt trauma chest due to fracture on the ribs. Doctors on emergency duty said that she had also sustained a nasal bone fracture, besides other minor abrasions and will be kept under observation.

Though Gurmeet does not recall how the accident occurred, she says, “I was going to Amritsar to meet my daughter. I boarded this bus which was going from Chandigarh to Amritsar at SAS Nagar. Soon the bus fell into water and I remember that I kept clinging on to my bag of clothes till I reached a shore’’. When asked as to where her bag was, she said it must be in the Ropar hospital where she was first brought.

Her immediate concern was her family, which would worry about her well-being once they know about the accident of the bus in which she was travelling. She was keen that someone informs her son, Manjit Singh, who has a fruit stall in Phase-I, SAS Nagar, about her being safe in the PGI.

Thanks to the efforts of Mr A.S. Mann, who had earlier saved seven lives in another accident near Lalru, her son was located and they then brought her husband, Mr Baldev Singh from their village Badhmajra to the PGI.

Of the five survivors, only two had been brought to the PGI. The other person was Mr Ramesh, the conductor of the bus, who had also been admitted with head injury and certain other external injuries. According to doctors, his CT scan was normal and he will also be kept under observation due to other soft tissue injuries.

Later in the evening, Mr Jugal Kishore, a resident of Chandigarh also came to PGI searching for the bodies of his wife Shweta Mahajan and son Kunal Mahajan.

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