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Nearly 30 confirmed dead as Indian school bus plummets 300 feet into gorge

The safety of India’s road system is under renewed scrutiny after a school bus plummeted over 300 feet into a gorge at the base of the Himalayas in India’s Kangra Valley region Monday afternoon. With nearly 30 confirmed deaths and numerous others injured, the incident is counted as one of the deadliest vehicle accidents in recent memory.

This road to Rohtang Pass on the eastern side of the Himalayas is narrow and lacks guardrails, making it significantly more dangerous to traverse.
A road to Rohtang Pass on the eastern side of the Himalayas is narrow and lacks guardrails, making it significantly more dangerous to traverse. (Wikimedia).

Local politician Rakesh Pathania described the aftermath as a scene “full of panic, cries, chaos and disaster.”

Witness Sahil Kumar explained, “I heard a loud bang and rushed out only to see the bus falling down. It reached the bottom of the hill very quickly.”

Kumar was one of many local passersby who rushed to assist victims while emergency personnel could arrive to the scene. The region’s police chief, Santosh Patial, told reporters that due to the nature of the crash, first responders had to “cut open the body of the bus to pull out the victims and survivors.”

Prabodh Saxena, Principal Secretary of the state of Himachal Pradesh’s government, said that while the cause of the accident is currently undetermined, an investigation into the matter has been launched. Sunita Kumari, Principal of the Wazir Ram Singh Pathania private school, the academy to which the bus belonged, confirmed that “the bus had been inspected by all the authorities and had met all norms.”

Traffic accidents are not uncommon in India, where motorists must maneuver some of the world’s deadliest roads. According to the World Health Organization, there are over 231,000 traffic-related fatalities in India each year. Conditions are worse in more rural areas where roads are plagued by potholes and guardrails may not have been installed. Minister of Transport Nitin Gadkari gave context to the problem, noting, “Accidents are killing more people in India than terrorism or natural disasters and yet we never talk about them.” In addition to the lives lost and injuries, these incidents alone, Gadkari said, costs the country about 3 percent of its GDP annually.

Indian authorities continue to wrestle with the root causes of its deadly roadways; namely, ineffective vehicle inspection regulations and penal legislation, inadequate safety training for drivers, and poorly maintained infrastructure.

 

Sources and Further Reading:

30 killed, including 23 children, as school bus plunges off mountain road in India – The Washington Post

Himachal Pradesh: 23 kids among 27 killed as school bus falls into gorge – The Times of India

‘Panic, Cries, Chaos’ in India as School Bus Crash Kills 27 – The New York Times

Road safety in India – World Health Organization

India road crashes kill 146,133 people in 2015 – BBC News

India’s roads are among the deadliest in the world. Can new laws tame drivers? – The Washington Post

If no-one helps you after a car crash in India, this is why – BBC News

At least 27 killed as school bus plunges off mountain road in Himachal Pradesh – Reuters India