At least 52 passengers were killed and a further 45 seriously injured after a grossly overloaded passenger bus skidded off the road and down a gorge on Saturday the 11th of August. The accident, which occurred in the Northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, was one of the worst road accidents that the country has ever seen.
The overloaded bus which was illegally carrying over one hundred passengers, of which many were seated on the roof, slid off the road and plunged into a ravine in a mountainous rural area of Himachal Pradesh. The bus was only registered to carry a maximum of 42 passengers. A large number of the passengers had climbed on board the overloaded bus after their bus, managed by the same bus company, broke down and they were stranded on the side of the highway in the sparsely populated area. The bus was en route to Shimla from Dulera when the accident happened.
Sunil Chaudhary, the district deputy commissioner, has confirmed that 52 bodies have so far been recovered with 45 passengers being injured in the accident, many critically so. In a statement given to the AFP news agency on Sunday morning, Chaudhary warned that the death toll is likely to rise as the week progresses, as more than a dozen of the injured passengers are in a critical condition in local hospitals.
The families of the deceased arrived at the scene shortly after the incident to identify and remove the bodies of the victims. Some families choose to take their family members to be cremated, and the state government provided trucks full of wood in order to cremate the rest of the deceased at the site of the accident.
The exact cause of the accident is as yet unknown, but eye witnesses report that it appeared that the driver lost control of the bus while turning a corner at high speed near the town of Chamba, around 190km away from the state capital, Shimla. This particular road is renowned for its treacherous hair pin bends in the mountainous region. It is unknown whether the driver of the bus was among the deceased.
The first to arrive on the scene of the accident were local villagers, who attempted to pull the dead and injured away from the wreckage. Emergency vehicles arrived soon after.
This is the second bus accident tragedy in the country in less than a week, after 31 people died when their bus plunged in a gorge under similar circumstances in the North-eastern region of Meghalaya.