At least 30 people, including 27 students, were killed and several others were injured when a bus fell into a deep gorge in Nurpur area in Himachal Pradesh on Monday, according to reports.
The deceased children were students of Ram Singh Pathania Memorial School, police said. Thirty persons, including 27 children, have lost their life, Himachal Pradesh Transport Minister Govind Singh Thakur said.
Superintendent of Police Santosh Patyal confirmed the deaths. All the dead students were below the age of 10. The bus driver and two teachers were among the dead, IANS reported
The death toll could rise as some students were still trapped in the mangled bus even as the rescue operation is on, police added.
Local villagers had begun rescue operation even before officials could reach the spot, eyewitnesses said.
Around 45 students of Wazir Ram Singh Pathania Memorial Public School were returning home when the bus skidded off road and fell into the 100-feet deep gorge near Gurchal village on the Nurpur-Chamba road, some 300 km from the state capital.
Teams of local administration and the National Disaster Response Force were involved in the rescue and faced tough time in pulling out the victims from the mangled bus.
At least 13 seriously injured persons were rushed to a hospital in Pathankot where one of them succumbed to injuries, an official said. The condition of other injured persons was also critical, he said.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur announced an immediate relief of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of each deceased.
A magisterial probe was ordered and preliminary enquiries suggested the accident occured as the driver lost control over the bus which veered off the road and fell into a deep gorge, an official said.
President Ram Nath Kovindand Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also expressed sorrow over the death of school children in the bus accident.
"Extremely saddened to learn about the tragic school bus accident in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. Thoughts and prayers with the bereaved families and with those injured," President's official Twitter handle shared.
Extremely saddened to learn about the tragic school bus accident in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. Thoughts and prayers with the bereaved families and with those injured #PresidentKovind— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) April 9, 2018
While PM Modi tweeted: I am deeply anguished by the loss of lives due to a bus accident in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. My prayers and solidarity with those who lost their near and dear ones in the accident.
I am deeply anguished by the loss of lives due to a bus accident in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. My prayers and solidarity with those who lost their near and dear ones in the accident: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) April 9, 2018
A pall of gloom descended in the area as wailing parents rushed to the spot on hearing the news. Food and Supplies minister Krishan Kapoor was among the senior state functionaries at the accident site to supervise rescue operations.
The bodies were extricated from the rubble with the assistance of local youth.
Governor Acharya Devvrat,Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Union minister JP Nadda, Transport minister Thakur, were among those who expressed deep shock over the tragedy.
(With inputs from agencies)
Watch India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma's report on the incident;