15 people have been killed and scores of others injured after their bus was involved in an accident in western Nepal on Friday, said local authorities.

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Officials speaking to the media on Saturday said that the passenger bus was travelling along a mountainous road when the driver lost control, veering off the road and plunging down a hill into a river. The accident occurred at around 8am on Friday morning.

The bus was traversing a winding mountain pass near Dasharathpur, a village in the Surkhet district of western Nepal, about 400 kilometres west of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. According to the bus company, the bus was en route to the city of Birendranagar from the village of Gumi when the accident happened.

The passenger bus was carrying approximately 50 people at the time of the crash. It is not yet clear what the cause of the accident was, but eye witnesses and survivors describe how the bus suddenly veered off the road, rolling about 50 metres down a steep hill before coming to a rest on its wheels in the Gamkhola River, which ran alongside the road. News agencies released horrific photographs of the accident scene, showing the mangled wreckage of the bus.

Although there has been no official investigation launched into the cause of the accident yet, police speculate that a truck may have been coming in the opposite direction, forcing the bus driver to swerve off the road. District police authorities who are working on the case were not authorized to release further information to the media at this stage. However, a report as to the likely cause of the accident will be released following investigation proceedings.

13 people died at the scene of the accident, with approximately 30 passengers injured. Two further passengers died of their injuries in hospital later on Friday evening. The names of the deceased passengers have not yet been released, but most of the fatalities have been identified. According to officials, three members of the military were among the fatalities, with most of the remaining victims being locals of the Surkhet district.

Accidents are common in Nepal’s dangerous mountain highways, and high fatality accidents such as this one are often caused by reckless driving and poor maintenance of vehicles and roads. Hundreds of people die in the country each year. This accident is the worst Nepal has seen since last September, when 29 people were killed after a bus fell off a cliff in western Nepal.

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