29 injured,poor condition of road blamed for mishap
At least 24 people lost their lives and 29 were injured when the bus in which they were travelling skidded off the road at Shanai Modh,4 km ahead of Chail towards Theog in Shimla district,and fell 250 feet down in a gorge. The accident occurred on the Theog-Hatkoti-Rohru State Highway,where widening work is underway. The bus was on its way from Shrontha in Rohru sub-division of Shimla district to the state Capital.
The injured were rushed to Theog civil hospital and the serious cases were referred to Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital in Shimla. The dead included 21 men and three women,said Theog Sub-Divisional Magistrate Manoj Sharma. The Shimla district police pressed into service additional force at Kufri,which is seeing heavy traffic jams,to keep the route open for vehicles carrying the injured.
The accident occurred when the bus was going uphill ahead of Chail towards Theog and had stopped when passengers were alighting at Shanai Modh. Just as the driver tried to put the bus in reverse,with the conductor navigating outside,for giving way to a vehicle coming from the opposite direction,it skid backwards and rolled down. It seems to be a case of mechanical fault or brake failure, said Shimla Superintendent of Police R M Sharma.
Talking to The Indian Express,Congress Legislative Party leader Vidya Stokes,who was at the spot to supervise the rescue operation,said: The condition of Theog-Hatkoti-Rohru road is pathetic,with heavy slush on the stretch where widening is going on. As a result,it has become slippery and dangerous for commuters. I do not ascribe to the mechanical-error story of the police. Since the bus was parked while a passenger was getting down,it seems that it skid backwards due to slippery road. Our efforts to meet the bus conductor,who was not on board the bus at the time of accident,did not succeed as he was conspicuously absent. His statement could have thrown more light on the cause.
Horticulture Minister Narender Bragta,too,rushed to the spot to supervise rescue work.
Governor Urmila Singh,Union Minister of Steel Virbhadra Singh and Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal have expressed grief over the accident.
This was the second major road accident in the state in less than 24 hours. The death toll in the accident on Wednesday evening at Huthnullah in Mandi district touched 40 on Thursday,after deaths of two persons at PGI Chandigarh and one at Mandi hospital. The truck was carrying 65 persons in its carrier. Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said in the Assembly: An inquiry has been ordered into the accident,to be supervised by the sub-divisional magistrate concerned,to ascertain the cause of accident. It is obvious that the goods carrier truck was illegally ferrying passengers. The culprits will be punished.
Dhumal said Transport Minister Mahender Singh,Congress MLAs from Mandi district Kaul Singh Thakur,Anil Sharma and Prakash Chaudhary had visited the spot and were also going to visit the families of the victims. Relief has been given to the next of kin of the deceased and the injured.