Schoolchildren among 12 dead after bus falls off cliff in India

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At least 12 passengers have died after a bus fell into a deep gorge in the mountainous Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, according to officials.

The casualties included at least six schoolchildren, Indian media reports said. Earlier a state official put the death toll at 16.

The private passenger bus was travelling through the Sainj valley in Kullu district when it rolled off a cliff and fell into a gorge near Jangla village at around 8.30am on Monday, reported Indian news channel NDTV.

Videos and pictures from the site of the accident showed severely injured passengers being taken away to a hospital as rescue workers continued to pull out the wounded from the wrangled remains of the vehicle.

About 20 passengers were travelling in the bus when the accident took place, according to the Himachal Pradesh State Emergency Operation Centre.

The cause of the bus accident is not immediately clear.

State assembly member Suresh Bhardwaj said at least three people were seriously injured and had been hospitalised, and that rescue workers were at the scene to ensure no one remained stuck under the wreckage.

“The road is good but there was a landslide this morning at that particular spot,” he said, according to the ANI news agency. “Attempts were made to get the bus out of there, but it fell into a cliff – leading to the casualties.”

Prime minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences for the loss of lives in the “heart-rending” accident and announced compensation for the families of those killed.

"The bus accident in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh is heart-rending. In this tragic hour my thoughts are with the bereaved families. I hope those injured recover at the earliest. The local administration is providing all possible assistance to those affected,” Mr Modi said on Twitter.

A one-off payment of Rs 200,000 (£2,088) each would be made from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to the next of kin of those who have lost their lives. The injured will be given Rs 50,000 each, Mr Modi said.

State chief ministerJai Ram Thakur said that he has asked the chief secretary to oversee the relief and rescue operation.

A magisterial enquiry at the state level has been ordered to investigate the cause of the accident, he added.

Mr Thakur said that the state will provide its own compensation of Rs 500,000 (£5,220) to the families of those killed in the accident.

The injured will be treated for free and will receive immediate assistance of Rs 15,000 (£156).

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