Twenty-five pilgrims from Madhya Pradesh died and three were critically injured on Sunday evening when the bus in which they were travelling fell into a deep gorge en route to the Yamunotri temple in Uttarkashi district.
The accident took place near Rikhavu khadd on the way to the Himalayan shrine around two kilometres from Damta on NH-94, Uttarkashi District Disaster Management Officer Devendra Patwal said. The pilgrims were from Panna district in Madhya Pradesh, Additional Chief Secretary Radha Raturi said.
Besides the driver and the helper, there were 28 passengers on the bus. Seventeen bodies have been recovered so far, and a search is on for the rest, Patwal said.
Three people injured in the accident have been admitted to the Community Health Centre in Damta. Police and SDRF teams have been rushed to the spot, besides ambulances from Badkot, Nagaon and Nainbagh.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited the disaster control room at the secretariat immediately after being informed about the accident. He asked the district magistrate of Uttarkashi to speed up relief and rescue operations. “Officials concerned have been instructed to investigate the accident. May God grant the departed souls a place at his feet and strength to their family members to bear the pain. Also, I pray for the speedy recovery of all those injured,” Dhami said in a tweet in Hindi.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan also spoke to Dhami for an update on the situation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and Uttarakhand Governor Gurmit Singh expressed grief over the loss of lives in the accident.
“The news of the bus accident in Uttarakhand is very painful. I express my condolences to those who have lost their loved ones. Under the supervision of the state government, the local administration is engaged in all possible assistance on the spot,” the Prime Minister’s Office said, quoting Modi. “The prime minister has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from the PMNRF for the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the accident in Uttarakhand. The injured would be given Rs 50,000 each,” it added.
President Kovind expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased. “I feel pained by the sad news of the death of people in a bus accident in Uttarakhand,” he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Dhami after the accident and said local rescue teams were engaged in the rescue operation, while National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel would also reach the spot shortly. “It is very sad to hear about the bus of devotees falling into a gorge in Uttarakhand. I have spoken to Chief Minister @pushkardhami on this. Local administration and SDRF teams are engaged in rescue work and the injured are being taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. NDRF is also reaching there soon,” Shah said in a tweet in Hindi.
The Himalayan shrines of Yamunotri, Badrinath, Kedarnath and Gangotri are commonly known as Char Dham.