Sunday, August 31, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


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Bus washed away near Ropar: 12 dead
Rajmeet Singh and Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Nalagarh, August 30
At least 12 persons, including women and children, were feared to have been washed away when a Punjab Roadways of the Ropar depot (PB-12-8011) was swept away in a flash flood in the seasonal rivulet, Sarsa Nadi, about 12 km from here this evening.

The bus, plying on the Baddi-Ropar route, was negotiating its way through the seasonal rivulet when it developed a technical snag. A survivor, Mr Dyan Singh, told TNS that as the driver was trying to start it, a sudden strong current swept the bus a few metres away.

The rescue operations were jointly launched by the civil authorities of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. There were contradictory claims on the number of survivors and those feared dead. Villagers of the area lamented that the Himachal civil authorities did not react in time and did little to move men and machinery in time.

The survivors, who were rescued by the Himachal Pradesh Police, led by the DSP, Dr V. Tomar, told TNS that at least 18 persons, who had climbed on to the rooftop of the bus, had been rescued after the swollen waters of the nadi receded. The survivors walked to a strip of land in the nadi before being pulled out with help of ropes.

The Deputy Commissioner, Ropar, Mrs Seema Jain, who reached the spot along with SDM, SAS Nagar, Mr M.L. Sharma, said 31 persons had been rescued.

Four persons, including the driver of the bus and Parminder, a resident of Ludhiana, swam to safety. One of the passengers, Raju, was rescued at Bharatpur, 12 km downstream, said Mrs Jain. Till 9 pm, the rescuers had sighted at least one body trapped in the bus as it was buried under sand. The exact count of the those trapped inside the bus would be known only when it is pulled out by cranes, said Baddi SDM Roopali Thakhur.

The Himachal and Punjab civil authorities put the figure of dead at not more than seven.

The 18 survivors sat on the roof of the bus for more than five hours till the river waters receded around 9 pm.

A mother sacrificed her life for her child. Sources said unable to reach the top of the bus, the mother handed over her around 4-year child to the passengers at the top while she herself perished inside.

One of the survivors, Ms Neelam, told ‘The Tribune’ that there were about 35 passengers in the bus. Driver Swarn Singh and conductor Baljeet Singh were rescued from the strong current

The bus had started from the industrial township of Baddi in Himachal Pradesh about 4 pm and was headed for Ropar in Punjab. The accident took place 8 km short of the destination. The area is located in the foothills of the Shivaliks which is replete with such rivulets that get huge quantities of water in the Monsoon when it rains in the hills. Even after four hours of the incident, the water level in the river was about 10 feet and the bus was barely visible. The spread of water was about about 60 feet. The bus was still trapped in the water.

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