Kullu, July 24 (IANS) Two more bodies were recovered on Friday from the swollen Parvati river in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district a day after a tourist bus from Punjab skidded off the road and fell into the river. This took the death toll to nine.
Police said 32 passengers were still missing and their chances of survival were bleak as the bus was still untraceable and the flow of the water was strong.
Officials said the toll could rise as the overloaded bus had 64 passengers — the majority of them from Punjab’s Barnala and Mansa towns — who were travelling to a Sikh shrine in Manikaran.
Twenty three people were rescued on Thursday.
The bus met with the accident in Sarsari village on the Bhuntar-Manikaran road, some eight km from Bhuntar.
Kullu’s Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar told IANS that a massive search operation was continuing for the remaining victims.
He said the focus of the search operation was to locate bodies trapped under boulders on the 10-15 km-long downstream stretch of the river from the accident spot.
Most of the bodies, officials said, were either trapped under rocks or buried in the riverbed silt.
A team of the National Disaster Response Force also reached the spot to locate the missing people.
“Our rescue workers are basically facing problem of poor visibility. The river bed is full of mud and silt. There are also big boulders and rocks,” an official said.
Meanwhile, family members of the missing people have reached the accident site.
Some of the relatives were apprehensive that the bodies might wash away 20-30 km further as the river stretch is narrow downwards and the current is strong.
This is the second major accident involving tourists in Himachal Pradesh in a little over a year.
Twenty four students of a Hyderabad-based institute and a tour operator were washed away in the Beas river in Mandi district on June 8 last year when water was released into the river without warning from a nearby hydropower project.
It took almost a month to retrieve all the bodies from the river.