46 dead in Himachal Pradesh mudslide, state to give Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia

Shimla: At least 46 people were killed in a massive mudslide that swallowed a 150 metre stretch of road, and buried homes, two buses and vehicles in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district on Sunday. Forty-six bodies were recovered and five injured rescued in a day-long operation, a government spokesperson said.

“We believe that most of the bodies have been recovered. Rescue operation was stopped during night as there were chances of more mudslides. But it will resume in the morning,” the spokesperson said, adding that 23 bodies were yet to be identified. Body of one biker was also recovered from the debris.

The mudslide occurred around 12.20 a.m. on the Mandi-Pathankot highway near Kotropi village in Jogindernagar tehsil, 220 km from here, when two Himachal Road Transport Corporation buses had stopped at a kiosk on the highway for refreshments. “In the last communication with the driver, the bus (to Manali) was packed to capacity,” Transport Minister G.S. Bali told a news channel. Over 40 passengers were on board the bus headed to Manali from Chamba at the time of the disaster.

The bus rolled down 800 metres below the road and is traced under a huge mound of debris, an official said. He said bodies of nine passengers travelling in this bus were retrieved. Mangled remains of the second bus bound for Katra in Jammu were retrieved totally. Three of the eight persons on the bus died. Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the deaths.

“Pained by the loss of lives due to landslide related accidents in HP’s Mandi district. My condolences with the families of the deceased,” Modi said in a tweet. Governor Acharya Devvrat also expressed grief. Locals told the administration that they vacated their homes and ran towards the forest area minutes before the entire mountain dislocated and slid down.

“A few boulders started rolling down just ahead of the disaster. Sensing trouble, we ran towards the forest and managed to save ourselves,” a survivor said. She said her house was washed away and the livestock perished. The area has been witnessing heavy rains for the past one week. Search and rescue operations are on involving local authorities, Army and National Disaster Response Force.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who visited the spot along with his cabinet colleagues, announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of those killed. Describing the development “an unprecedented tragedy”, Singh said the rescue operation would continue until the last body of victim was recovered. Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal also visited the spot.

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