At least 28 people were killed and five injured when a state roadways bus skidded off the road and fell into a 500-feet-deep gorge Monday night in Himachal Pradesh's Kangra district, an official said.
Twenty-eight bodies have been recovered from the wreckage of the bus, while five injured have been hospitalised, Deputy Commissioner KR Bharti said today.
The 42-seater bus, ferrying passengers from Palampur to Asha Puri, a village known for a hilltop shrine, had been overcrowded, one of the survivors told police.
The survivors told the police that most of passengers alighted from the bus at Makol village, just a few kilometres before the accident.
The authorities had to call the Indian Army from Palampur, which is 250 km from here, to undertake the rescue operation as the accident spot was treacherous and thickly forested.
The driver was adjusting his seat when the accident occurred. "Most probably, the driver was distracted while adjusting the seat," Bharti said.
The government has ordered a magisterial probe into the accident.
Most of the victims were locals and belonged to closely-knit families. The rescue operations are still on.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has expressed grief over the accident.
This is the second major accident in the state in less than a month. Fifty-three people were killed and 46 were injured on Aug 11 when an overcrowded private bus rolled into a 300-feet deep gorge in Chamba district in the state.