Shimla: At least seven persons were killed and over two dozen missing in a massive landslide that buried homes, two buses and some vehicles in Himachal Pradesh's Mandi district early on Sunday, officials said.
The landslide occurred around 12.20 a.m. on the Mandi-Pathankot highway near Kotropi village in Jogindernagar tehsil, burying two Himachal Road Transport Corporation buses, some private vehicles and several houses.
A search and rescue operation is on involving local authorities, the Army and the National Disaster Response Force. So far, five persons have been rescued and admitted to Zonal Hospital in Mandi town. The disaster spot is about 220 km from here.
According to witnesses, the two buses were stationed at a kiosk on the highway for refreshments when the incident took place. A more than 150 metre stretch of the road was washed away in the mudslide.
One of the buses was on its way from Chamba to Manali and the other from Manali to Katra.
The bus from Chamba to Manali, carrying the maximum number of passengers, is yet to be retrieved from a mound of mud and boulders.
Mangled remains of the bus bound for Katra in Jammu were retrieved. Three of the eight persons aboard the bus died.
Officials said 21 passengers travelling to Manali got their tickets booked online. They believe 35-50 passengers were on the bus at the time of the incident.
Rescue workers were finding it difficult to retrieve the remains of the Manali-bound bus as it rolled down 800 metres below the road and got stuck under a huge mound of debris.
"The exact number of missing persons is yet to be assessed. As per estimates, 25-30 are missing," an official told IANS.
State Revenue Minister Kaul Singh announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the next of kin of those killed. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal rushed to the spot.