19 killed as bus falls into gorge in Himachal

Shimla, June 7 (IANS) Nineteen people, including eight women, were killed Friday and 13 injured when a private bus carrying them skidded off a road and fell into a 500-foot gorge in Himachal Pradesh's Sirmaur district, police said.

Gross human negligence was behind the accident, said the officials.

Nineteen bodies have been recovered, Superintendent of Police Sumedha Diwedi told IANS.

The bus was carrying at least 35 passengers at the time of the accident. The police officer said the injured were being treated at hospitals in Solan and Shimla towns.

The bus, ferrying people from Purandhar to Solan town, met with the accident near Bharari village in Sangrah subdivision, 130 km from district headquarters Nahan.

"The driver was throwing bottles out of the bus while on wheel. This led to the driver losing control over the vehicle," one of the survivors told the police.

Witnesses said the administration had a tough time in extricating the victims from the wreckage of the bus, although villagers started the rescue operations well before the authorities could reach the spot.

Most of the accident victims belonged to Nohradhar and Purandhar areas.

The government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the accident.

Governor Urmila Singh and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh have expressed grief over the incident.

Sirmaur is one of remotest places in the state. Buses plying there have poor frequency, and the scarcity of means of transport often leads of overcrowding of vehicles.

This was the second major accident in the state in less than a month.

Thirty-nine people were killed when a private, overloaded bus carrying 70 passengers skidded off the road and plunged into the Beas river near Kullu town May 8.

Human negligence was behind the cause of the accident as the driver, who jumped off the bus just before the vehicle plunged into the river, was talking on cellphone at the time of the accident.

Police records say over 800 people die every year in the state in road accidents.

Police have identified 556 accident-prone spots, including 210 on national highways.

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