Tribune News Service
Shimla/Dharamsala, August 13
Forty-six people were killed after a massive landslide buried two Himachal Pradesh roadways buses at Kotrupi in Mandi district on the Mandi-Pathankot national highway.
Mandi deputy commissioner Sandeep Kadam said 46 bodies have been recovered. The rescue operations have been suspended and will continue tomorrow.
Rescue operations were suspended late evening as there were apprehensions of more landslides, officials said.
The death toll is likely rise as more than 50 passengers were travelling in the two buses that were hit by the landslide, triggered by a cloud burst, officials said.
The buses had stopped for tea around midnight at a roadside stall at Kotrupi near Padder in Mandi district when the landslide struck, and swept them nearly 1 km into a gorge.
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Army and the police were rushed and heavy earth-moving machinery deployed at the gorge where the two buses lay buried under a heap of debris.
Apart from two buses, more vehicles and people were believed to have been at the spot when an entire hillside collapsed last night. Some houses, too, have been hit by landslide.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh visited the spot and said the rescue operation would continue till the last body was recovered.
He said eight passengers were travelling in the Manali-Katra bus (HP63-5840) of which three lost their lives while five were rescued and admitted to the zonal hospital in Mandi.
There were 47 passengers in the second bus (HP73-4423) which was coming from Chamba, an official said.
"As per the last communication with the driver, the bus (to Manali) was packed to capacity," Transport Minister G S Bali said told a news channel.
My condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in Mandi.Request Himachal govt. & local Congress units to provide all possible help— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) August 13, 2017
Driver Chanden Sharma and conductor Satpal of the Manali-bound bus were reported killed, while the staff of the other bus survived as they were not in the vehicle when the landslide hit.
In a notification, the district administration has advised people to take the Mandi-Kullu route via Kalota. Also, the Jogindernagar-Mandi section of the Pathankot-Mandi national highway has been closed.
A CPI (M) leader, Kushal Bharadwaj, said a bus was later traced to 1 km down in the gorge, buried under the part of the hillside that collapsed. Only one house was damaged, he claimed.
“Locals told us that the bus was full of passengers when it crossed Jogindernagar around midnight. There were some vehicles waiting when a small landslide first blocked the highway, but they were all taken by surprise when the entire hillside collapsed. Death toll could be very high,” Bhardwaj, who reached the site of the incident, said.
I pray for the quick recovery of those injured in Mandi district, Himachal Pradesh: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) August 13, 2017
The chief minister said the state government would bear medical expenses of the injured passengers. He also met the bereaved family members and expressed condolences.
Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur, Transport minister G S Bali and Rural Development and Panchayati Raj minister Anil Sharma also reached the spot.
Thakur announced financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased while Bali announced that Rs 1 lakh would be given to each bereaved family by the HRTC.
The massive landslide, covering an area of more than 250 metre, swept away two other vehicles also and damaged some houses.
The highway was closed and hundreds of vehicles were stranded on either side, officials said.
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. — With agency inputs
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