At least 29 persons were killed and nine seriously injured when a night super bus traveling from Silchar to Guwahati skidded off National Highway 6 (NH-6) at Sonapur in Meghalaya late Tuesday night and fell into a deep gorge.
While the mishap occurred at around 10 PM on Tuesday, the police rescue operation that was launched only on Wednesday morning suffered due to heavy rains as well as difficult terrain. When the operations were called off for the day at sunset on Wednesday, the police could recover only seven bodies.
East Jaintia Hills district SP Spill Thamar said that while the bus had 36 persons including the two drivers, one conductor and one handyman, only nine persons could be rescued alive from the accident site. “We could recover only nine persons alive, while seven bodies were recovered till the end of the day. We will resume the operations early Thursday morning,” SP Thamar told The Indian Express from Khliehriat, the East Jaintia Hills district headquarter.
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The bus, which belonged to a private operator called Arihant Travels, skidded off NH-6 (erstwhile NH-44) and tumbled down the mountain to a gorge that is about 300 feet deep, which also had a river flowing by, SP Thamar said.
“It is extremely difficult to carry out the rescue operations because of the steep gorge. We had to use long ropes as well as country boats to rescue the survivors as well as recover the bodies. Moreover, it has been raining almost the whole day,” he said. The police have pressed in fire service, civil defence and CRPF personnel to carry out the rescue operations.
All the passengers of the ill-fated bus were males, the SP confirmed. “We have procured the passenger list and found that there were no women or children in the ill-fated bus. There were also several CRPF jawans in the bus, and we have so far recovered the body of one of them,” Thamar added.
Sonapur, the place near where the accident occurred in East Jaintia Hills district in Meghalaya, is about 140 kms south of Shillong and 240 kms from Guwahati. As many as 28 persons were killed when an Agartala-bound bus from Guwahati had fallen off the highway into a deep gorge near the same place in August 2012.
National Highway 6 passing through Meghalaya is the shortest route between the Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys in Assam. But a considerable portion of the highway being mountainous, accidents are frequent on it, particularly in the Sonapur area.