45 dead as landslide hits buses in India
August 13 2017 10:00 AM
Police and local residents search a vehicle for survivors following a landslide that swept away a highway in Himachal Pradesh.

dpa/New Delhi

At least 45 people were killed after a landslide swept away two buses in India's northern state of Himachal Pradesh.

The landslide, triggered by heavy monsoon rains, engulfed the buses and some vehicles on a highway in the hilly Mandi district early Sunday, senior district official Sandeep Kadam said.

The army along with local authorities and disaster management personnel were carrying out rescue operations.

"Forty-five bodies have been recovered in operations through the day. Of these, 14, all men, were identified. Five people were rescued," Anshul Gupta, an official at the disaster control room in Mandi, said.

"The search operations are in their final stages. The death toll could still rise further and climb to 50," he added.

Police said the buses were parked on the highway, where some passengers had gone out for snacks, just before the landslide happened. It swept the buses 800 metres down into a gorge and buried one of the vehicles completely.

Rescue teams comprising over 300 men had completed the search of one bus, but rescue work on the second bus was challenging as it was buried under several feet of mud, Kadam said.

"Our teams are using earth-moving equipment and shovels to dig through the tons of mud, boulders and stones and retrieve bodies. It is a tough operation and will continue until Monday morning," Kadam said.

Gupta said the bus was estimated to be carrying between 40 and 50 passengers. The bodies of some 42 passengers had been found from this bus, leaving some more missing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences for the deaths.

"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," Modi said in a tweet.

Several small homes were also washed away in the heavy rains that hit the region in the past few days.

India's monsoon season usually lasts from June to September. The torrential rains routinely exact a heavy toll, causing floods, landslides, house collapses and crop destruction.

Last updated: August 13 2017 07:23 PM

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