The toll in the bus accident near Malli on the Palampur-Ashapuri road near here rose to 34 today with authorities recovering 20 more bodies,police said.
Five others,including two women and a child,were seriously injured in the mishap which took place when a Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) bus rolled 1000 ft down into a deep gorge last evening.
Till late last night 14 bodies had been found.
All 34 bodies have been recovered and post-mortem was being conducted while the injured,which included conductor Sumir Kumar and two women,Vandana and Reshma have been admitted to a hospital at Palampur and R P Government Medical College,Tanda (Kangra),Deputy Commissioner K R Bharti,who returned from the spot this morning,said.
The inhospitable weather conditions and hostile terrain coupled with darkness hampered relief and rescue operations and all the bodies were recovered this morning after night long rescue operations.
Besides police and home guards,two Army rescue teams from Palampur and Yol Camp,equipped with long ropes and search lights,also joined the rescue operations and the bus in the gorge was sighted this morning only after the visibility improved.
The bus was found torn apart and more than 20 bodies were scattered on steep,slippery slopes accessible only through ropes and most of the bodies recovered till late night had not been extricated from the wreckages of the ill-fated vehicle.
The DC,SP,SDM,and teams of doctors with relief and rescue teams remained at the site throughout the night and supervised the rescue operations.
The DC announced immediate relief of Rs 20,000 to next of kin of the deceased and Rs 5,000 to each injured person.
“All bodies have been recovered and the final death toll is 34”,he said,adding,a magisterial inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident and SDM,Jaisinghpur,has been asked to conduct the inquiry and submit the report within 15 days.
The injured women Vandana and Reshma,admitted to the hospital at Palampur said that just a few minutes before the accident,the driver said that his seat was sliding backward and stopped the bus. He adjusted the seat with the help of some passengers and started again.
But within a few minutes,the bus started going back on the steep road and fell into the deep gorge.
Governor Urmilla Singh and Chief Minister P K Dhumal have expressed deep shock and grief over the accident and conveyed their condolences to the bereaved families.
Dhumal asked the district administration to provide all possible relief and help to affected passengers.
BJP vice president Shanta Kumar,public works minister Gulab Singh and transport minister Mohinder Singh have also expressed deep shock over the tragedy.