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Himachal landslide: Six killed as two buses plunge into gorge

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-08-2017 AFP

Shimla: At least six people have been killed and dozens more are missing after a massive landslide swept two buses off a hillside into a deep gorge in Himachal Pradesh, an official said Sunday.

The buses had stopped for a tea break around midnight Saturday on the Mandi-Pathankot highway in Himachal Pradesh when tonnes of rock and mud swept away an entire stretch of the highway roughly 200km from the state capital Shimla.

Rescue teams reached the scene but struggled in the dark and steep terrain, with the army later joining the search. Six bodies had been recovered so far but there were fears for many more still missing, said Sandeep Kadam, a senior official at the scene. “The other bus has been swept away, 800 metres down the steep hillside. We are not sure how many people were in this bus,” he told AFP.

Himachal Pradesh transport minister G.S. Bali said the death toll could climb to 50 in the incident which took place last night. One of the buses was going from Manali to Katra and another from Manali to Chamba.

The Press Trust of India reported 30 people were feared dead in the disaster, while other reports suggested an even higher toll. Some houses and slum dwellings were also destroyed in the landslide, which followed days of heavy rain in the Himalayan region.

Landslides are common in Himachal Pradesh, especially during monsoon months when heavy rain loosens steep hillsides. At least five people were killed last month in a mudslide in remote Arunachal Pradesh.

PM Narendra Modi condoled the deaths that occurred due to the landslide. “Pained by the loss of lives due to landslide related accidents in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district. My condolences with the families of the deceased,” said the prime minister in a tweet. “I pray for the quick recovery of those injured in Mandi district, Himachal Pradesh,” he added.

A team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is going to Mandi to take part in rescue and relief operations and provide all possible assistance required, the prime minister’s office said.

PTI contributed to this story.

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