Shimla, June 15 (IANS) Ten pilgrims from Punjab were killed when a private bus they were travelling in skidded off the road and fell into a gorge in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra district on Thursday, police said.
All of them were from Amritsar.
“Fifty five people, including 23 women and eight children, were injured in the accident. They have been admitted to hospitals in Dehra and Tanda towns,” Superintendent of Police Sanjiv Gandhi told IANS.
More than 80 pilgrims were on their way to the popular Hindu shrine Jwalamukhi when their bus met with an accident near Dhaliara town, some 65 km from district headquarter Dharamsala.
The pilgrims, mostly traders, earlier paid obeisance at the Chintpurni temple in the hill state.
Eyewitnesses said the bus was overcrowded and the driver probably lost control over the vehicle while negotiating a steep gradient.
The administration had a tough time extracting the victims from the bus, though locals started rescue work before the authorities could reach the spot.
Wailing relatives mourned the loss of lives of their loved ones. “Shiv Kumar was travelling with his family. He died in the accident while his family members received grievous injuries,” said a relative of Kumar.
Overloaded buses, trucks and tractor-trailers carrying passengers from Punjab is a common sight in Himachal Pradesh, especially during religious festivals.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Governor Acharya Devvrat expressed grief over the accident.
In May last year, a bus accident had occurred near the site of Thursday’s accident in which seven people, all from Amritsar, had died. They were going home after paying obeisance at the Jwalamukhi temple.
Police officials blame buses belonging to the neighbouring state, driven recklessly by untrained men and largely belonging to private operators, for most of the fatal accidents.