Rescuers pull out 45 bodies in landslide hit north India’s Himachal Pradesh

NEW DELHI, Aug. 15 — Indian rescue workers including contingents
of army and disaster response force personnel on Sunday pulled out 45
bodies from the debris of landslide that buried two buses in northern
Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, officials said.

The landslide hit two passenger buses early on Sunday in Urla village of
Mandi district, about 177 km north of Shimla, the capital of Himachal
Pradesh.”So far we have retrieved 45 bodies from the debris,” Sandeep
Kadam, deputy commissioner of Mandi told Xinhua over telephone. “The
search operation is underway to trace more bodies.” The landslide triggered
by heavy rains buried part of a highway known as Pathankot-Mandi, trapping
two buses, two cars and a motorbike, officials said. Reports said the
landslide drifted boulders and rocks that hit the buses and pushed one of
them into a deep gorge.

Despite intermittent rain, the rescuers pressed in and used shovels and
bare hands to remove rocks, boulders and debris covering the buses. The men
pulled out bodies trapped inside and carried them to morgue.”The bodies
have been kept in a nearby hospital and the administration is trying to
identify them,” a health official said. Authorities fear more bodies might
be buried in the debris. So far it was not clearly known how many people
were traveling in the buses. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has
expressed grief over the deaths. “Pained by the loss of lives due to
landslide related accidents in (Himachal Pradesh’s) Mandi district. My
condolences with the families of the deceased,” Modi said.

Many houses were washed away in the overnight rain that hit the mountainous
district. The state’s Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh visited the spot to
oversee rescue work that was going on until late, officials said. The
government has also announced a financial assistance of 7,795 U.S. dollars
for the families that have lost their members in the accident. Authorities
have closed the highway in wake of the washing away of the road and
hundreds of vehicles were stranded on either side, officials said.Himachal
Pradesh has a rugged terrain. Landslides are often triggered from its
mountains during frequent rains.-XINHUA