18 killed as Himachal bus falls into river

Shimla, Nov 5 (IANS) At least 18 persons were killed and 24 injured on Saturday when an overloaded private bus plunged into the Beas river near Mandi town in Himachal Pradesh, police officials said.

Over speeding was the cause of the accident, said the police.

The ill-fated bus with over 45 persons on board was enroute to Kullu town from Mandi when it fell into the river near Bindravani, some 175 km from the state capital, on National Highway 21.

Superintendent of Police P.K. Thakur said 18 persons died in the accident.

He told IANS that the injured have been admitted to the Zonal Hospital in Mandi.

The toll could increase as most of the injured were in critical condition, a police official said.

The bus has been retrieved from the river.

Witnesses told police that the driver, who was overtaking a truck, lost control over the vehicle while saving a motorcyclist from a head-on collision.

A survivor told the police that the cause of the accident was over speeding and bad condition of the road.

Expressing grief over the accident, Transport Minister G.S. Bali ordered a magisterial inquiry into it and announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the dead.

It took hours for rescuers and the police to climb down the mountain and bring up the bodies.

Eyewitnesses said the administration had a tough time in extricating the victims from the bus, although locals and passersby started the rescue operations before the authorities could reach the spot.