Shimla: At least 46 people died when two Himachal roadway buses were hit by a massive landslide, which was triggered by a cloudburst, on the Mandi-Pathankot National Highway on Saturday night.
Mandi Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kadam told ANI on Sunday evening that 46 bodies were recovered so far and rescue operations were underway at the accident site.
Two search and rescue teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are operational in Mandi. The Army and Himachal Pradesh Police are also engaged in the rescue operations.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh visited the site of the accident earlier on Sunday and announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh each for next of kin of the deceased.
One of the buses was going from Manali to Katra and another from Manali to Chamba when the accident happened. The buses had halted for a tea break at Kotrupi in the night when the tragedy struck, said special secretary (Disaster) DD Sharma.
The landslide swept away the road and the buses for almost 800 metres down into a gorge and there was no trace of one of the buses which was completely buried under the debris so far.
Director General of Police Somesh Goyal said that as per preliminary information there were eight passengers in the Manali-Katra Volvo bus while 47 passengers were travelling in the other bus.
Authorities have been directed to arrange for on the spot postmortem, he added.
This is the third such incident in Himachal. Earlier 45 bus passengers were buried in a landslide near Matiyana in Shimla district in 1988 and 42 passengers were buried in another mishap at Luggar Hati in Kullu district in 1994.