27 persons, including 24 school students, were killed when a private school bus fell into a 150 feet-deep gorge near Malkval in Nurpur, about 50 km from Dharmshala in Himachal Pradesh, on Monday afternoon, police said.
Kangra Superintendent of Police Santosh Patial confirmed the deaths. All the deceased students were under 10 years of age and most of them belonged to Khawada village of Nurpur. The victims included bus driver and two teachers.
Since the rescue operation still on, death toll is likely to rise as some students were still trapped in the mangled wreckage, police added. Local villagers had begun rescue operation even before officials could reach the spot, eyewitnesses said.
Around 45 students of Wazir Ram Singh Pathania Memorial Public School were returning home when the bus skidded off road and fell into the 150-feet deep gorge near Malkval on the Nurpur-Chamba road.
Rescue teams of local administration and the National Disaster Response Force faced tough time in pulling out the victims from the mangled wreckage of bus. Some of the injured were referred to hospitals in Pathankot in Punjab.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur condoled the deaths and announced an ex-gratia of Rs five lakh each to the bereaved family members of accident victims. A magisterial inquiry has also been ordered.
Food, Consumer affairs and Civil Supply Kishan Kapoor and Urban Development Minister Sarveen Chudhary visited the spot.