19 killed in Himachal road accident (Lead)

April 14th, 2009 - 9:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, April 14 (IANS) Nineteen people, including six women and a child, were killed when a privately-owned bus rolled down a gorge in Himachal Pradesh’s Chamba district Tuesday, officials said. Earlier reports said 30 people had died in the accident.
“Nineteen passengers, who were travelling in the bus, were killed when it fell into a 1,500 feet deep gorge near Baghaigarh village in Tissa subdivision this (Tuesday) afternoon,” state Chief Secretary Asha Swaroop told IANS. “One person was rushed to the government hospital in Tissa.”

Earlier, legislator Surender Bhardwaj and Deputy Commissioner Maneesh Garg told reporters that 30 people died in the accident.

The bus was on its way from Nakrot village to Charda village when it met with the accident near Baghaigarh, 78 km from the district headquarters town of Chamba. The accident spot is located about 475 km from the state capital and is one of the remotest places in the state.

Eyewitness said the lone survivor was travelling on the roof of the bus, which is prohibited.

They said the administration had a tough time in extracting the victims from the bus, though villagers had begun the rescue operations before the authorities could reach the spot.

“The bus was descending a steep gradient when the driver probably failed to negotiate a hairpin bend and the vehicle rolled down the gorge,” Ram Singh, an eyewitness said.

Most of the dead were from Chamba district.

State Transport Minister Kishan Kapoor and other government officials have reached the spot.

Governor Prabha Rau, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and former chief minister Virbhadra Singh expressed grief over the incident.

Swaroop said compensation would be given to the next of kin of the dead as per government rules.

Over 5,000 people have died in nearly 20,000 accidents during the past eight years on the mountain roads of Himachal Pradesh, according to police records.

Police officials blamed buses, driven recklessly by untrained men and largely belonging to private operators, for most of the fatal accidents.

In Tuesday’s accident also, the bus was of a private operator.

“The drivers engaged by private transporters often lack proper driving skills. In most of the cases, the drivers are hired at a low salary from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who are not trained to drive in tough (hilly) road conditions.

“Of course, competition among bus drivers to pick up more and more passengers leads to overspeeding and negligent driving,” said a senior official of the transport department, who requested anonymity.

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