Kathmandu: At least 34 Indians were among the 39 pilgrims who were killed today when tragedy struck their overcrowded bus that skidded off a slippery road and plunged into a swollen canal in southern Nepal.
The bus was carrying 100 to 120 Hindu pilgrims, mostly from Uttar Pradesh, to a temple in Nawalparasi district, 150 km west of the capital Kathmandu, police officials in Nawalparasi district. While 39 bodies were retrieved till late afternoon, 27 people who were on board the bus were still missing.
The accident site - Gandak Canal - is located some 250 km south west of Kathmandu. Officials said 37 of the 39 bodies have been identified so far, and only three of them were of Nepalese citizens, others were Indians. The victims include 28 men, 10 women and a five-year-old girl.
A team from the Indian embassy in Kathmandu, with a doctor and an official from the Consulate General of India, Birgunj, were dispatched to the site of the accident near the Indo-Nepal border. The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu also set up a control room to provide information about Indian nationals involved in bus accident.
The ill-fated bus veered off a rain-slicked highway and fell into the flooded irrigation canal, police said.
Most of the passengers were Indian nationals who were going to attend the Bolbam festival in Tribenighat, they said, adding the death toll may go up.
Ten Indians were also injured, police said. Different versions of the events emerged after the accident, with some survivors claiming that the driver was drunk.
The Himalayan Times quoted eyewitnesses as saying that the bus first got stuck in the muddy roadside while letting a truck and a tractor coming from the opposite direction to pass by and abruptly plunged into the canal while gearing up to get over the swampy area.
The bus was overloaded, which might be the main reason of the accident, police said. Some of passengers were travelling on the roof of the vehicle.
Rescue work was being carried out by the police and Nepal Army with the help of local people.
Information about the Indians involved in the accident can be obtained on the Indian embassy control room number 97714412135.
Story first published:
July 15, 2012 16:20 IST