At least 17 Gujarati tourists, all from Surendranagar district of Gujarat, are feared dead and another 28 have sustained injuries in a road accident as the bus they were travelling in fell 200 metres off the road from a mountain highway at Nagdhunga, 16 kms from Kathmandu, on Wednesday morning. The bodies of the deceased will be brought to Ahmedabad, along with the survivors, by a special plane sent by the Indian government to Nepal and is expected to reach by Thursday afternoon, as per sources.
The tour party of 45 pilgrims, that was part of a group of 75, travelled in two separate buses and arrived on Tuesday at the Pashupatinath temple on the occasion of Akshaya Trittiya to perform pooja and had spent the day sightseeing. Another bus carrying 37 passengers is safe. The tragedy took place just half an hour after the tourists left for home from their guest house.
According to the list made public by the Indian embassy, the dead have been identified as Ganesh Shiva, Jasu Ben, Ganesh Shanker, Ishwor Shyamji, Kanchan Ben, Labu Ben, Dalpat Bhai, Sabita Ben, Devji Bhai, Gauri Ben, Dayaram, Ganga Ram, Lila Ben, Narsi Poppat, Alpesh Kodi Patel, Champa Ben and Jasu Ben.
In the wake of the tragedy, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, on Wednesday, tweeted that a financial support of Rs 4 lakh will be offered to the kin of each deceased. IAS Udit Agrawal said, “Of the deceased, 11 hailed from Wadhwan city, one from Surendranagar city, 4 are from Dhrangadhra and another was from Chuda village. Around 76 people had left from Surendranagar as part of a group tour for Chaar Dhaam yatra which is usually two months long. The group was on the last leg of the tour and were returning home via Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. We have visited a few families in the city and assured them the government is doing everything to bring their relatives back. By tomorrow afternoon, the dead and other injured tourists may land in Ahmedabad airport as per the information we have. We have arranged for buses for the relatives to ply them to Ahmedabad to collect their relatives.”
The official Twitter handle of the Indian Embassy in Nepal tweeted that a team of Consular Wing officials had been deputed to the accident site to coordinate search and rescue operations and extend necessary assistance. A helpline number of the Gujarat Bhavan in Delhi and numbers of two Indian embassy officials in Kathmandu were provided by the government. As per tweets by the same handle, the concerned bus was operated by Shri Hari Tours & Travels, Gujarat.
Ranjit Rae, the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, visited the injured who are being treated in around seven neighboring hospitals of Kathmandu. Apart from the list of names of the 45 tourists who are injured or feared dead, the portal also has names of 37 passengers of the bus who are safe, even as names of three more passengers traveling in the bus is yet to be ascertained. The deceased identified on the same portal includes nine men and eight women.
Speaking about the tragedy, Haribhai Patel, chairman of All Gujarat Tour Vehicles Federation and owner of Shree Shakti Travels Pvt Ltd, said, “We are still trying to glean more details in the wake of the tragedy and will give a travel advisory in our further meetings to our 700 odd members on how to be more careful while plying tourists on such terrain and the risks associated with driving at night and on the instructions they should give to their staff, who travel with tourists to avoid such incidents in future.”
PM Narendra Modi also tweeted on the tragedy saying that Embassy officials from Nepal have reached the spot and are overseeing the treatment of the injured at the hospital there. The official Twitter account of the Embassy of India in Kathmandu also tweeted that the Indian government will be sending a special plane on Thursday to carry back the dead and survivors. The embassy was liasoning with local authorities for early completion of formalities. Shailesh Rangadiya, son of proprietor of Shri Hari Travels from Surendranagar, Premji bhai Chhaganbhai Rangadiya, who was also travelling on the other bus, said, “Three of my own relatives were in the bus. We have been running this business for 20 years and this is the first time that such a tragedy has happened. Two of my family members are on their way to Ahmedabad and will go to Delhi from there to receive the bodies and bring back the survivors which includes my father.”