Kullu: At least seven people were killed and 23 others injured when a private tourist bus from Punjab skidded off the road and fell into the swollen Parvati river in Himachal Pradesh's Kullu district on Thursday evening, police said.
Twenty-six passengers were still missing and their chances of survival were bleak as the bus was still untraceable and the flow in the river was strong.
Officials said the toll could rise as the bus had 56 passengers a majority of them from Punjab's Barnala and Mansa towns who were travelling to a famous Sikh shrine in Manikaran.
The bus met with the accident in Sarsari village on the Bhuntar-Manikaran road, some eight km from Bhuntar, Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar told IANS.
He said seven bodies were fished out.
Official sources said the rescue operation was stopped late in the evening due to darkness and would resume on Friday morning.
"The bus is still untraceable. Most the bodies might be still stuck either in the bus or washed away," he said.
The cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained, he added. The injured were admitted to government hospitals in Kullu, some 200 km from Shimla. Bus conductor Raj Kumar was among the survivors.
The government has summoned divers of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) to locate the bodies.
Governor Kalyan Singh and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh mourned the deaths.
The chief minister directed the district administration to intensify the search operation, besides providing all possible assistance to the injured.