A massive landslide buried two Himachal Pradesh roadways buses, killing at least 46 persons and injuring several others at Kotpuri near Padhar on the Mandi–Pathankot national highway, officials said.
The toll was set to rise as over 50 passengers were travelling in the two buses hit by the landslide which was triggered by a cloud burst, they said.
Mandi Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kadam said 46 bodies have been recovered so far and rescue operation is underway.
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force, 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.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh visited the spot and said the rescue operation would continue till the last body was recovered.
He said that eight passengers were travelling in the Manali-Katra bus of which three lost their lives while five were rescued and admitted to the zonal hospital in Mandi.
There were around 47 passengers in the second bus which was on its way from Manali to Chamba, an official said.
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.
State 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 metres, 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.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the incident.
‘Pained by the loss of lives due to landslide related accidents in HP's Mandi district. My condolences with the families of the deceased,’ Modi tweeted.
‘I pray for the quick recovery of those injured in Mandi district, Himachal Pradesh,’ he added.
With ANI inputs