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In a gruesome accident in Himachal Pradesh, fifty passengers were feared killed when two Himachal roadway buses were hit by a massive landslide on Mandi-Pathankot National Highway in the early hours of Sunday. Fate of several others was not yet known.

The state Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh visited the accident site and announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh each for next of kin of the deceased. One of the buses was travelling from Manali to Katra and another was coming from Manali to Chamba.

Prime Minister has expressed his sorrow over the accident through a twitter post.

The buses had halted for a tea break at Kotrupi in the night when the tragedy struck, said special secretary (Disaster) D D Sharma. The landslide swept away the road and the buses for almost 800 meters into a gorge. There was no trace of one of the buses which was completely buried under the debris so far. The exact number of passengers in the two buses was not yet known. However buses could be carrying 30 to 40 persons.

The Army and NDRF teams have started rescue operation. The Inspector General of central range and Deputy Commissioner and SP are on the spot.

Director General of Police Somesh Goyal has reportedly said that as per preliminary information there were eight persons in the Manali-Katra bus while 47 passengers were travelling in the other bus.

Authorities have been directed to arrange for on the spot postmortem. So far eight bodies have been recovered which included the driver and the conductor of Chamba depot bus Chanden Sharma and Satpal.

This is the third such incident in Himachal Pradesh in the recent past. In 1988 forty five bus passengers were buried in a landslide near Matiyana in Shimla district while 42 passengers were buried in similar mishap at Luggar Hati in Kullu district in 1994.

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