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Shimla

Landslide blocks Chandigarh-Manali highway

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Traffic on the Chandigarh-Manali national highway has been blocked following a massive landslide along the Beas river in Himachal Pradesh, police said on Saturday.
 
However, there were no reports of any casualties.
 
Nearly 100 metres of the national highway was badly damaged in the landslide that occurred near Aut in Mandi district on Friday night.
 
Hundreds of vehicles remained stranded on both sides of the affected area.
 
District authorities claimed that traffic was partially restored for small vehicles through diversions on alternate roads.
 
"JCB machines are trying to clear the debris and likely to restored by afternoon," said a district official.
 
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and district authorities have deployed equipment to remove the debris.
 
IANS

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16 killed in Himachal rains, hundreds stranded

 
Schools, highways shut due to heavy rains in Shimla, Mandi
 
 
Heavy rains in Himachal Pradesh claimed 16 lives, including four of a family, while hundreds of people were stranded across the state after incessant rains triggered landslides, snapping road links, officials said on Monday.
 
A government advisory advised people to avoid travel as the weather officials warned of heavy rains in the state till Tuesday and thereafter on August 16 and 17.
 
Four members of a family were killed in a landslide in Kandaghat subdivision in Solan district. A boy was washed away in the swollen Kaushalya river near Parwanoo in the district. A total of eight persons lost their lives in rain-related incidents in the district.
 
Landslides led to the death of three persons in Mandi district, while road traffic was disrupted for hours on the Chandigarh-Shimla, Shimla-Nahan, Chamba-Pathankot and Mandi-Pathankot highways.
 
Additional Chief Secretary Manisha Nanda said that 923 roads were closed due to landslides, including six National Highways, and that men and machinery had been pressed into service to open these roads to traffic as soon as possible.
 
Presiding over a review meeting here on the damage caused by rains, Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhry said the state had released Rs 96.50 crore for relief and rescue operations.
 
As a precautionary measure, all schools and educational institutes in the state will remain closed on Tuesday too.
 
The water level in the Beas river rose dramatically, touching the Chandigarh-Manali National Highway 21 near the Hanogi temple. Traffic on the stretch was suspended owing to the development.
 
All trains on the Kalka-Shimla route were cancelled due to landslips on the tracks.
 
After heavy overnight rains, most roads in Himachal interiors remained closed to traffic on Monday, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded.
 
Vehicular movement in Kinnaur district was suspended due to landslides at several places on the Hindustan-Tibet Road.
 
An official said traffic in higher reaches of Kinnaur, Shimla, Chamba, Mandi, Kullu and Sirmaur districts was the worst affected and efforts were on to restore it.
 
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According to the Met office here, moderate to heavy rains have occurred in most parts of the state since Sunday.
 
Extremely heavy rainfall occurred at isolated places in Solan, Mandi, Sirmaur, Kangra and Hamirpur districts. Heavy to very heavy rainfall occurred at a few places in Shimla, Kullu, Una, Bilaspur and Chamba districts, a statement by the meteorological office said.
 
Sujanpur Tira town in Hamirpur district recorded the highest rainfall in the state at 307 mm, while it was 300 mm in Arki town in Solan district and 239 mm in Paonta Sahib in Sirmaur district.
 
Baijnath town in Kangra district recorded 235 mm in the past 24 hours, while Palampur town recorded 212 mm.
 
It was 142 mm in Dharamsala town, 117 mm in Kasauli, 129 mm in Solan town and 72 mm in Dalhousie.
 
State capital Shimla recorded 172 mm rainfall within 24 hours in this month - the highest precipitation since 2011, a meteorological official said.
 
Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) authorities released excess water from the Pandoh dam into the Beas river as heavy rain abnormally increased the water level in the reservoir, the official said.
 
The water level in the major rivers of the state - the Satluj, Beas and Yamuna - which enter the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana has also increased, a government official said.
 
"Continuous heavy rains have increased the water level in the Beas river and its tributaries, including the Parvati and the Tirthan," the official added.
 
IANS
 

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Rain claims 5 lives in Himachal; hundreds stranded as highways shut

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Heavy rains in Himachal Pradesh claimed five lives and hundreds remained stranded across the state after incessant rainfall triggered landslides and snapped road links, an official said on Monday.
 
Three persons were killed in Mandi district in landslide incidents, while a boy was washed away in the swollen Kaushalya river near Parwanoo in Solan district.
 
Reports said five persons were buried under a landslide near Chakla village in Kandaghat in Solan district. One of them reportedly died. Rescue work is still on.
 
After heavy overnight rains, most of the roads in the interiors of the state remained closed to traffic on Monday, stranding hundreds of travellers and commuters.
 
The Chandigarh-Manali National Highway-21 has been closed for vehicles near Mandi town, an official said. Likewise, traffic on the Chandigarh-Shimla National Highway-5 was hampered near Chakki Ka Mor in Solan district.
 
The Mandi-Pathankot, the Chamba-Pathankot and the Shimla-Nahan national highways were blocked by landslides.
 
Vehicular movement in Kinnaur district remained suspended since a large stretch of the Hindustan-Tibet Road has been under landslides at several points.
 
An official said the road network in the higher reaches of Kinnaur, Shimla, Chamba, Mandi, Kullu and Sirmaur districts was the worst affected and efforts were being made to reopen it.
 
As a precautionary measure, all schools and educational institutes in Shimla, Solan, Kullu, Hamirpur, Kangra, Kinnaur and Mandi districts were closed for the day.
 
According to the Met office here, moderate to heavy showers have occurred in most parts of the state since Sunday.
 
Paonta Sahib in Sirmaur district recorded the highest rainfall in the state at 239 mm, while it was 238 mm in Sujanpur Tira town in Hamirpur district. 
 
Nehri town in Mandi district recorded 235 mm in the past 24 hours, while Palampur town recorded 212 mm.
 
It was 172 mm in the state capital, 142 in Dharamsala town, 98 mm in Kasauli, 94 mm in Solan town and 57 mm in Dalhousie.
 
The weather office has forecast heavy rains across the state till Tuesday.
 
IANS
 

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Heavy rains in Himachal close highways; hundreds stranded

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After heavy overnight rains, most of the roads in the interiors of Himachal Pradesh remained closed to traffic on Monday, stranding hundreds of travellers and commuters.
 
The Chandigarh-Manali National Highway-21 has been closed for vehicles near Mandi town, an official said. Likewise, the Chandigarh-Shimla National Highway-5 was hampered near Jabli town in Solan district.
 
Vehicular movement in Kinnaur district remained suspended since a large stretch of the Hindustan-Tibet Road has been under landslides at several points.
 
Reports said five persons were buried under a landslide in Kandaghat area in Solan district. One of them reportedly died as rescue work was still on.
 
An official said the road network in the higher reaches of Kinnaur, Shimla, Chamba, Mandi, Kullu and Sirmaur districts was the worst affected and efforts were being made to reopen it.
 
As a precautionary measure, all schools and educational institutes in Shimla and Mandi districts have been closed for the day.
 
According to the Met office here, moderate to heavy showers have occurred in most parts of the state since Sunday.
 
Nehri town in Mandi district recorded the highest rainfall in the state at 235 mm. Dharamsala town recorded 110 mm rain in the past 24 hours, while it was 100 mm here in the state capital, 98 mm in Kasauli, 94 mm in Solan town and 57 mm in Dalhousie.
 
The weather office has forecast heavy rains across the state till Tuesday.
 
IANS
 

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Pune pilgrim killed, three washed away in Himachal flashflood

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A woman pilgrim from Pune in Maharashtra was washed away and three other persons were reported missing in a flash flood triggered by heavy rains in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh on Saturday while they were on way to Kinner Kailash, police said.
 
While the deceased was identified as Sangeeta Morey, the three missing persons remained unidentified, a police official told IANS on the phone.
 
As many as 163 persons were rescued while 35 others are still stranded at different location en route Kinner Kailash.
 
Most pilgrims were trapped in the Ganesh park area near Kinner Kailash, dedicated to Lord Shiva's 79-foot vertical rock Shiva Lingam at a height of around 6,050 metres above average sea level.
 
The district administration deployed police, Home Guards and Indo-Tibetan Border Police jawans for search and rescue operation, Acting Deputy Commissioner Avninder Kumar said.
 
Kinner Kailash trek is considered the toughest as it takes at least two days to complete.
 
The pilgrimage is yet to start officially.
 
IANS
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Shimla region of Himachal Pradesh

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.2 on the Richter scale, shook the Shimla region of Himachal Pradesh in the early hours of today.
 
A bulletin rom the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 31.4°N and longitude 77.7°E, occurred at 0336 hours at a focal depth of 5 km.
 
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Seven killed in Himachal bus accident

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At least seven persons were killed and 20 injured when a Himachal Road Transport Corporation bus skidded off the road and rolled down a hill near Chhaila on Friday, the police said.
 
Most of the injured have been admitted to the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital here.
 
The bus was on its way to Tikkar from Shimla when the accident occurred on the Theog-Hatkoti road, 42 km from here.
 
Witnesses told the police the bus driver probably lost control over the vehicle when it was descending a steep gradient.
 
The administration had a tough time extricating the victims from the badly mangled wreckage after the people in the area launched the initial rescue bid.
 
IANS
 
 
 
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Construction banned, fest postponed in Shimla over water woes

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Acting tough over the acute shortage of portable water in the state capital for almost a week, the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Tuesday suspended all construction activity for a week and said no water would be supplied through tankers to VIPs, including judges.
 
The much awaited five-day annual summer festival of dance and music here, set to begin on June 1, has also been postponed due to the water scarcity.
 
In a resumed hearing, a division bench headed by acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol directed the state that all construction activity within the Shimla planning area will forthwith remain suspended for at least one week.
 
Thereafter, depending upon the prevalent situation, a committee will take an appropriate decision in this regard.
 
"An endeavour shall be made by the Chief Secretary to immediately approach the army authorities for diverting the water used for watering the golf course at Annadale as also the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, which has got huge water storage tanks, to meet emergent situation within the municipal limits of Shimla," said the bench, which a day earlier took suo motu cognizance of the acute shortage of water.
 
The bench was categorically clear in saying except under extreme emergency situations, no water through tankers shall be supplied to any individual, more so in a VIP area, be it the judges, ministers, MLAs, bureaucrats, police officers and commercial establishments.
 
However, this order would not include the residences and offices of the Governor and the Chief Minister, it added.
 
Listing the case for next hearing on Wednesday, the bench, also comprising Justice Ajay Mohan Goel, directed the Muncipal Commissioner to personally remain present in the court and file the compliance report.
 
During the hearing, the court was informed that Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhry was monitoring the situation on an hourly basis.
 
"As on date, approximately 18.5 million litres per day (MLD) of water is being received from all sources," said the government, adding measures for plugging the leakage of approximately 3.5 MLD water have been already taken.
 
Shimla's normal demand of water is 42 to 45 MLD, civic body officials told IANS.
 
They blame leaks in the distribution network, a significant portion of which came up in the British days, and diminishing water resources due to over-exploitation.
 
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While Shimla residents are grappling with water woes -- not exactly for the first time -- Mayor Kusum Sadrate of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is helming the Municipal Corporation for the first time in three decades since June 2017, is away in China on an official tour.
 
Meanwhile, a scuffle was ensured when protesting Communist Party of India-Marxist activists were stopped by police from entering the office of the Municipal Corporation here.
 
They were raising slogans against the civic body and were demanding to meet the Deputy Mayor to lodge their protest over water shortage.
 
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who is also monitoring the situation, said 35 additional water takers have been deployed to supply water to those areas facing acute shortage.
 
"We are arranging transportation of water from nearby Solan and Bilaspur districts," he told reporters.
 
Even tourists are feeling the pinch.
 
"I reached my hotel this morning from Delhi and found that there was no water in the toilet. I was charged Rs 200 for a bucket of water," tourist Harpreet Ahuja told IANS, adding he cancelled his hotel booking and will be returning home.
 
Another tourist Vinod Yadav, who reached Shimla from Kalka in a toy train, said toilets in the train were stinking as there was no water.
 
He said even the toilets at the Shimla railway station were locked due to water shortage.
 
IANS
 
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14 killed in two road accidents in Himachal Pradesh

 
14 die in two road accidents in Himachal Pradesh
 
 
Fourteen people were killed and 15 injured in two separate road accidents in Himachal Pradesh's Shimla and Sirmaur districts on Sunday.
 
Eight people were killed and 15 injured when a bus skidded off the road and rolled down the hill in Sirmaur district.
 
The bus was on its way from Manva to Solan town when the accident occurred near the Nai Neti panchayat, around 25 km from Rajgarh town.
 
Most of the injured were admitted to the Regional Hospital in Solan.
 
Sirmaur Deputy Commissioner Lalit Jain told IANS the rescue operation was over. Most of the victims were from Rajgarh area. He said the cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained.
 
In another accident, all six occupants of a car were killed on the spot when it fell into a 300-foot deep gorge near Chhaila on the Theog-Hatkoti road, 42 km from Shimla.
 
Witnesses told police that the car driver probably lost control over the vehicle when it was descending a steep gradient.
 
The administration had a tough time extricating the victims of both the accidents from the badly mangled vehicles.
 
People in the area began rescue operations even before authorities reached the spot.
 
IANS
 
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Kasauli: Second firing victim succumbs to injuries

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Another victim of firing purportedly by a guest house owner during a demolition drive in the tourist resort Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh succumbed to his injuries on Sunday after battling for life for 12 days, police said.
 
Earlier, Assistant Town Planner Shaila Bala Sharma, 51, was shot dead by Narayani Guest House owner Vijay Singh during the demolition drive in Solan district.
 
Public Works Department employee Gulab Singh got bullet injuries when Vijay Singh fired at employees deployed to raze illegal constructions in the area on May 1.
 
He was referred to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh where he died.
 
The accused was arrested from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh two days after the crime. He is on police remand.
 
Vijay Singh fired at officials when they insisted on executing the apex court order to demolish illegal constructions at his guest house.
 
The apex court, which ordered the demolition of illegal constructions in 13 hotels and resorts in Kasauli area, took suo motu cognizance of the firing incident.
 
On May 9, the court asked the state government to provide it the names and designations of officers who were posted in Kasauli when unauthorized constructions were carried out.
 
A bench of Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta also sought a report from the state on specific steps taken to ensure that no uauthorized construction was being carried out in other parts of the state.
 
During the hearing, the bench told the Advocate General of Himachal Pradesh: "Unless you take action and remove four-five people from service, nothing will fall in line."
 
IANS
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Himachal may get more thundershowers next week

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Himachal Pradesh may get more thundershowers next week as the weather bureau here on Friday predicted that western disturbances will be active once again in the region.
 
"Light to moderate rain and thundershowers are likely to occur at some places in the state between May 14 and 15 with the western disturbances affecting the Western Himalayas," Manmohan Singh, the meteorological department director, told IANS.
 
Western disturbances are a storm system originating from the Mediterranean Sea and moving across the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
 
Tourist towns of Shimla, Narkanda, Kufri, Kalpa, Kasauli, Chamba, Dharamsala, Palampur and Manali might get rains in the next few days.
 
"High-altitude areas of Lahaul and Spiti, Chamba, Kullu and Kinnaur districts may experience moderate snow," a Met official said.
 
There has been no rain or snowfall across the state in the past 24 hours since Thursday.
 
Shimla recorded a low of 15.5 degrees Celsius, a rise from Thursday's 12.5 degrees, while it was 3.3 degrees in Keylong, 7.6 degrees in Kalpa, 14.8 degrees in Dharamsala and 15.5 degrees in Dalhousie.
 
A day earlier, the state capital here saw a high of 23.5 degrees Celsius.
 
IANS
 
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Adverse weather: Himachal advises against travelling to higher reaches

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The Himachal Pradesh government on Tuesday advised locals and tourists not to travel towards the higher reaches as moderate snowfall and rains continued across the state.
 
An advisory was issued to avoid travelling to the high hills of Kullu, Sirmaur, Chamba, Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur districts as chances of snow and rain are high over the next 24 hours, a government spokesperson told IANS here on Tuesday morning.
 
Kullu Deputy Commissioner Yunus Khan told IANS that tourists and locals bound for the Rohtang Pass, some 52 km from Manali, were not allowed to go beyond Marhi, due to continuous snowfall that has resulted in snapping of road links leading to the pass.
 
"Even the locals have been advised not to go close to the rivers and water channels and check weather conditions before travelling towards the Jalori Pass also," he said, adding "schools were closed for a day (Tuesday)".
 
Officials said state transport buses in Lahaul Valley in Lahaul-Spiti district have been temporarily suspended.
 
According to the Met Office in Shimla, heavy rainfall accompanied by thunderstorms and strong winds are likely at some places in the state till Thursday.
 
Kalpa in Kinnaur district received 27 mm rain till Tuesday morning, while Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti district saw 5 cm of snow.
 
However, Shimla experienced only 3.7 mm, while Manali, Dharamsala and Dalhousie towns received 18.6 mm, 8.2 mm and 13 mm of rain, respectively.
 
Shimla recorded a minimum of 9.8 degrees Celsius, while it was 2.4 degrees in Kalpa, 13.8 degrees in Dharamsala, 5.4 degrees in Manali and 7.8 degrees in Dalhousie.
 
IANS
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Demolitions on in Kasauli, murder accused held, top police official shifted

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Even as illegal constructions in hotels and resorts in Himachal Pradesh's Kasauli area continued to be razed on Thursday, a hotelier accused of fatally shooting a woman officer two days ago was arrested from Uttar Pradesh, officials said.
 
Head also started rolling with the state government late in the evening transferring the district's top police official.
 
On May 1, Assistant Town Planner Shaila Bala Sharma was shot dead by Narayani Guest House owner Vijay Singh during the Supreme Court-ordered demolition drive.
 
In a joint operation, a state police team, which was coordinating with Delhi Police, arrested him from Mathura town.
 
Police officials said the accused, who was not using his mobile phone since the murder, had shaved off his moustache to conceal his identity. He is being brought to Kasauli.
 
Expressing anguish over the delay in the arrest of the accused, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur earlier told reporters in New Delhi: "I am in regular touch with top police officials. As per my information, he's likely to be arrested today (Thursday) or tomorrow (Friday)."
 
Police officials said Vijay Singh shot dead the official when she insisted on executing the apex court order to demolish illegal constructions at his guest house.
 
After the crime, Vijay Singh, a Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board employee who was on leave for three weeks, disappeared into a nearby forest.
 
Admitting negligence in the matter, Deputy Commissioner Vinod Kumar said: "It was our responsibility to carry out the demolitions. It was a lapse on part of the district administration. We had asked the demolition teams to exercise restraint."
 
But the demolitions would continue, he added.
 
On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered the Himachal government to file an affidavit by May 9, the next date of hearing, detailing the progress in the murder probe.
 
A bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur said the affidavit should contain details of action taken to demolish illegal constructions and steps to prevent unauthorised constructions in future.
 
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Taking suo motu cognisance of the official's killing, the Supreme Court a day earlier pulled up the state authorities for failure to ensure the safety of officers implementing its orders.
 
The apex court on April 17 ordered the demolition of illegal constructions, saying the life of people cannot be endangered for making money.
 
The Congress blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party government for what it said was "deteriorating law and order" in the hill state.
 
"Even two days after the crime, the state has failed to fix responsibility on officials responsible for the lapses that led to the death of a government employee," Congress leader Mukesh Agnihotri told IANS.
 
After rap from the apex court over negligence in handling of the demolitions, the government transferred Solan Superintendent of Police Mohit Chawla and his deputy Ramesh Sharma to police headquarters.
 
Additional Superintendent Shiv Kumar was given the additional charge of the Superintendent of Police, while Ajay Rana is the new Deputy Superintendent of Police.
 
The government also decided to confer Himachal Gaurav Purskar on the Assistant Town Planner.
 
A government spokesman said a decision in this regard was taken at a high-level meeting held here to review the law and order situation.
 
He said the government also decided to give an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to her family who would be entitled for salary for her remaining service period.
 
IANS
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27 schoolchildren among 30 killed in bus mishap in Himachal Pradesh

Thirty people, including 27 students, were killed on Monday when a private school bus fell into a gorge in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, police said.
Locals rescuing students stuck inside a school bus that fell into a gorge near Malkwal area of Nurpur in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, on April 9, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Locals rescuing students stuck inside a school bus that fell into a gorge near Malkwal area of Nurpur in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, on April 9, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Thirty people, including 27 students, were killed on Monday when a private school bus fell into a gorge in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, police said.
 
Superintendent of Police Santosh Patyal said all the killed students were in the age of 10 to 12, while the bus driver and two women teachers were among the victims.
 
Local villagers had begun rescue operation even before officials could reach the spot, eyewitnesses said.
 
Around 45 students of Wazir Ram Singh Pathania Memorial Public School were returning home when the bus skidded off road and fell into the 100-feet deep gorge near Gurchal village on the Nurpur-Chamba road, some 300 km from the state capital.
 
Teams of local administration and the National Disaster Response Force were involved in the rescue and faced tough time in pulling out the victims from the mangled bus.
 
Thirteen of the injured were referred to hospitals in Pathankot in Punjab. One of them died in a hospital, while 12 students were admitted with critical injuries.
 
The rescue operation was almost over, said an official.
 
"Prima facie, negligent driving and over-speeding are the main reasons for the accident," he added.
 
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Governor Acharya Devvrat and Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda condoled the deaths.
 
A magisterial inquiry has been ordered.
 
The government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 500,000 to the next of kin of each of those killed and free treatment to those injured.
 
Food and Civil Supplies Minister Kishan Kapoor along with local legislator Rakesh Pathania and Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kumar reached the spot to supervise rescue and relief operation.
 
IANS
 
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BJP's Jai Ram Thakur sworn in as new Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh

 
Jai Ram Thakur takes oath as 14th CM of Himachal Pradesh
Five-time legislator Jai Ram Thakur of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh at the head of a 12-member Council of Ministers.
 
Mr. Thakur, 52, and the 11 other Ministers were administered the oaths of office and secrecy by Governor Acharya Devvrat at a ceremony at the historic Ridge Ground here.
 
The Ministers who were sworn in are Suresh Bhardwaj, Anil Sharma, Govind Thakur, Mahender Singh, Sarveen Chaudhary, Ram Lal Markandaye, Vipin Parmar, Rajeev Saijal, Bikram Thakur, Kishan Kapoor and Virender Kanwar.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of several BJP-ruled States were present on the occasion.
 
Mr. Thakur's family, including his 80-year-old mother, and hundreds of BJP workers and others were also present.
 
Mr. Thakur has become the 14th Chief Minister of the State, though only the sixth person to hold the position because some of the previous Chief Ministers have served multiple terms.
 
He has succeeded Mr. Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, who has had five terms as Chief Minister. The BJP had named two-time Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial candidate, but he ended up losing the elections, in which polling was held on November 9 and votes were counted on December 18.
 
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Power has alternated between the Congress and the BJP in Himachal Pradesh in recent decades. In the elections this time, the BJP wrested power from the Congress by winning 44 seats in the 68-member State Legislative Assembly. The Congress ended up with just 21 seats, while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) got one and two seats went to independent candidates.
 
Mr. Thakur was elected as the leader of the BJP Legislature Party here at a meeting of the party's newly elected legislators on December 24.
 
Born on January 6, 1965, Mr. Thakur has an M. A. from Punjab University. He has been a member of the state legislative assembly since 1998 and had served as Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj in the Prem Kumar Dhumal government during 2007-12.
 
He was active in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP, during the 1980s and became the president of the State BJP Yuva Morcha during 1993-95. He was president of the state BJP during 2006-09.
 
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74% polling recorded in Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections

 
Himachal assembly polls: Voters queue up to cost their ballot
More than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters turned up to exercise their franchise in the single phase polling held today to elect a new 68-member legislative assembly in Himachal Pradesh, official sources said.
 
Election Commission officials said the final voting percentage was expected to be slightly hour because there were queues of voters at several polling stations when polling ended at 5pm.
 
Polling had begun at 8 am amidst tight security, and was by and large peaceful in all constituencies, with no untoward incident reported from anywhere.
 
Himachal Pradesh had recorded 73.51 percent polling during the last assembly elections in 2012 and 64.45 percent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
The term of the current legislative assembly  in the state is normally due to expire on January 7, 2018.
 
A total of 50,25,941 electors, including 25,68,761 men, 24,57,166 women and 14 of the third gender were eligible to exercise their franchise in today's polling.
 
In all, 337 candidates, including 19 women, were in the fray in the 68 constituencies. They include 62 sitting MLAs.
 
The ruling Congress, which is seeking to retain power, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is hoping to unseat it, had both put up candidates in all 68 constituencies.
 
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Among the other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) fielded nominees in 42 constituencies, the CPI (M) in 14, the CPI in three, and the NCP and the SP in two each. There were 112 independent candidates in the contest and 27 candidates representing registered but unrecognized parties.
 
The Election Commission had set up 7525 polling stations and deployed 11,283 electronic voting machines, along with 11050 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for the elections. In fact, today's election is the first time that VVPAT units had been deployed at all polling booths in a state.
 
The Commission had also made elaborate security arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll, with more than 24,000 security personnel deployed across the state.
 
Five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18 and all the results are expected by that evening.
 
Of the 68 seats in the state assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Polling begins in elections for new Himachal Pradesh Assembly

 
Himachal assembly polls: Voters queue up to cost their ballot
Polling began this morning amidst tight security to elect a new 68-member legislative assembly in Himachal Pradesh.
 
The single-phase polling began at 8 am and will end at 5 pm in all 68 constituencies.
 
The term of the current legislative assembly  in the state is normally due to expire on January 7, 2018.
 
A total of 50,25,941 electors, including 25,68,761 men, 24,57,166 women and 14 of the third gender are eligible to exercise their franchise in today's polling.
 
In all, 338 candidates, including 19 women, are in the fray in the 68 constituencies. They include 62 sitting MLAs.
 
The ruling Congress, which is seeking to retain power, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is hoping to unseat it, have both put up candidates in all 68 constituencies.
 
Among the other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded nominees in 42 constituencies, the CPI (M) in 14, the CPI in three, and the NCP and the SP in two each. There are 112 independent candidates in the contest and 27 candidates representing registered but unrecognized parties.
 
The Election Commission has set up 7525 polling stations and deployed 11,283 electronic voting machines, along with 11050 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for the elections. In fact, today's election is the first time that VVPAT units have been deployed at all polling booths in a state.
 
The Commission has also made elaborate security arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.
 
Five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18 and all the results are expected by that evening.
 
Of the 68 seats in the state assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Himachal Pradesh to vote on Thursday to elect new Assembly

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Polling will be held in a single phase amidst tight security tomorrow to elect a new 68-member legislative assembly in Himachal Pradesh.
 
The term of the current legislative assembly  in the state is normally due to expire on January 7, 2018.
 
A total of 50,25,941 electors, including 25,68,761 men, 24,57,166 women and 14 of the third gender are eligible to exercise their franchise in tomorrow's polling.
 
In all, 338 candidates, including 19 women, are in the fray in the 68 constituencies. They include 62 sitting MLAs.
 
The ruling Congress, which is seeking to retain power, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is hoping to unseat it, have both put up candidates in all 68 constituencies.
 
Among the other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded nominees in 42 constituencies, the CPI (M) in 14, the CPI in three, and the NCP and the SP in two each. There are 112 independent candidates in the contest and 27 candidates representing registered but unrecognized parties.
 
The Election Commission has set up 7525 polling stations and deployed 11,283 electronic voting machines, along with 11050 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for the elections. In fact, tomorrow's election will be the first time that VVPAT units will be deployed at all booths in a state.
 
The Commission has also made elaborate security arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.
 
Five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18 and all the results are expected by that evening.
 
Of the 68 seats in the state assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Rahul Gandhi questions Modi's silence on corruption charges against BJP leaders

 
Rahul Gandhi hits out at Modi on corruption, jobs
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for remaining silent on allegations of corruption against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and accused him of only making long speeches while doing nothing on the real challenges facing the country such as joblessness.
 
Addressing a public meeting at Paonta Sahib, Sirmour in Himachal Pradesh ahead of the November 9 elections to the state legislative assembly, he said Mr. Modi had his own interpretation of a saying in the Bhagvad Gita and claimed credit for work done by others.
 
"The Gita says, 'you should do your work and not worry about the fruits of your labour', but Modiji has his own interpretation of this. He enjoys the fruits of others' labour and does not worry about doing any work," he said.
 
The meeting was the first of three that Mr. Gandhi was scheduled to address in the poll-bound state, a day after Mr. Modi addressed a series of meetings on Saturday in which he said that the absence of the top leadership of the Congress in the campaign so far indicated that the party had virtually accepted defeat and realised that it would not return to power here in the near future.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that his grandmother, late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, used to say that there are two types of people -- those who work silently and those who do not work but take credit. "She used to say that it is better to be in the first category, because there is less competition there," he said.
 
The Congress Vice-President said Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who, at 83, is seeking another term in office, belonged to the first category of silent workers who had done a lot of good work in the past five years in Himachal Pradesh.
 
He said the NITI Aayog had said that Himachal Pradesh was the least corrupt state in the country and that it was ranked number five in health and education infrastructure. He said Himachal Pradesh was at the top in cleanliness, electrification and had outperformed states like Gujarat in employment creation.
 
Ridiculing the BJP's claims about the success of the so-called "Gujarat model" of development, Mr. Gandhi cited official figures to say that Himachal Pradesh was far ahead on parameters such as creation of government jobs, unemployment allowance, opening of medical colleges, opening of government schools and colleges, widows pension, housing, health centres and so on. "This is Narendra Modi's Gujarat model, the Gujarat government does not do any work, but he makes long speeches," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said the BJP government at the Centre and in the States ruled by it had failed to act on corruption charges against its leaders and its allies, and cited the examples of the alleged Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, the Lalit Modi case, the allegations against the Badals in Punjab, and the induction of tainted leaders such as Narayan Rane and Mukul Roy and readmission of former Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa into the BJP in recent times. "Modiji does not utter a word on these matters," he said.
 
Similarly, he questioned Mr. Modi's silence on the recent allegations against BJP President Amit Shah's son Jay Shah.
 
"Modiji had said 'Na Khaoonga, Na Khaane Doonga. He had said that he was a 'chowkidaar'. You are not a 'chowkidaar' but a 'bhaagidaar'," he said.
 
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Mr. Gandhi, who has also been campaigning extensively in Gujarat, where elections are due to be held on December 9 and 14, dwelt at length on affairs in that state and alleged that the BJP worked for only a few top industrialists while ignoring the aspirations of the poor, the youth, women, farmers, small traders and small and medium industries.
 
He also spoke about the November 8, 2016 demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 bank notes and the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) from July 1 this year, and said the two moves had inflicted huge suffering on the common man and caused incalculable losses for small traders, SMEs, farmers and the whole economy.
 
Mr. Gandhi alleged that demonetisation had helped some people to convert thousands of crores of rupees of black money into white.
 
On GST, he said that if his party were voted to power at the Centre in the 2019 elections it would carry out major changes in the GST system to bring it in line with what the Congress had originally intended to implement during its tenure.
 
Mr. Gandhi also said that creation of jobs was the single biggest challenge before India and on which the Government should focus. He said China was creating 50,000 new jobs every day, while India was creating only 450 jobs every day. "What China is doing in just two days, India does in one year," he said, reminding the people that Mr. Modi had, in the run-up to the 2014 elections, promised that he would create 2 crore jobs a year.
 
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BJP names Prem Kumar Dhumal as its Chief Ministerial nominee in Himachal Pradesh

 
Amit Shah names Dhumal as BJP's CM face in HP
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah has named former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal as the party's chief ministerial nominee ahead of the  crucial November 9 elections to the state legislative assembly.
 
Mr. Shah made the announcement about Mr. Dhumal at an election rally in Himachal Pradesh yesterday.
 
Mr. Dhumal, 73, who has served twice as Chief Minister of the state and three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha, representing Hamirpur, is widely credited with having expanded the BJP's base in Himachal Pradesh in the last two decades.
 
He will turn 74 in April, 2018, when he will be just a year short of the BJP's unofficial cut-off age of 75 for its leaders to retire from occupying ministerial positions. The rule has been applied both at the Centre and in the States.
 
Referring to Chief Minister and Congress leader Virbhadra Singh's repeated questions to the BJP as to who its chief ministerial nominee is, Mr. Shah said that, across the entire country, the party was fighting under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
"But if you want to know under whose leadership the BJP is contesting in Himachal Pradesh, then I want to make it clear today. Vibhadraji, the BJP will fight under Dhumalji’s leadership in Himachal. I want to say that we will fight these 2017 polls in the name of our senior leader Dhumalji. I also want to say that Dhumalji is currently a former chief minister and the leader of the opposition, but after December 18 he will be the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh."
 
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Mr. Dhumal, currently the leader of the Opposition in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, has served as Chief Minister from March 24, 1998 to March 5, 2003 and then from January 1, 2008 to December 25, 2012.
 
The party had initially decided to go to the polls without a chief ministerial face, but it has changed its strategy with just nine days to go for the polls. There was speculation at one stage that Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda could be its chief ministerial candidate.
 
Mr. Dhumal's son Anurag Thakur, former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), is currently serving his third term as a member of the Lok Sabha from Hamirpur.
 
"Dhumal Ji is among our senior most leaders with rich administrative experience in Himachal. He will once again make a wonderful CM," Prime Minister Modi said on Twitter.
 
"BJP’s focus is politics of development. We want to make Himachal corruption-free & initiate record development initiatives in the state," he added.
 
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Sonia Gandhi admitted to Delhi hospital with upset stomach

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Congress President Sonia Gandhi was admitted to the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here this evening after suffering a stomach upset while on a private visit to Shimla in Himachal Pradesh.
 
"Mrs Sonia Gandhi has been brought to the hospital today evening at 5 pm. She has been found to be suffering from stomach infection," a brief statement issued by Dr. D. S. Rana, Chairman of the hospital's Board of Management, said.
 
"Mrs Gandhi has been admitted for observation," he added.
 
Sources said Mrs. Gandhi was flown into Delhi from Shimla in an air ambulance.
 
"Ma was in Shimla & caught a stomach bug so we got her back. Nothing to worry, she's much better. Thanks for the tremendous love and concern," Congress Vice-President and Mrs. Gandhi's son Rahul Gandhi said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
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Virbhadra Singh to be Congress's CM candidate in HP: Rahul Gandhi

 
Unemployment is biggest challenge facing nation: Rahul Gandhi
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today kicked off his party's campaign for the elections to the Himachal Pradesh Legislation Assembly, expected to be held later this year, and announced that Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh would again be its chief ministerial candidate.
 
Addressing a public meeting at Mandi, Mr. Gandhi lashed out at the Narendra Modi government at the centre and accused it of causing untold misery to farmers, labourers and the youth because of its economic policies, especially demonetisation and the "hasty" implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST).
 
Mr. Gandhi dwelt at length on the issue of unemployment and said that the Prime Minister had failed to deliver on his promise of creating 2 crore jobs every year. He said that, at a time when about 30,000 youth were entering the job market every day, the government was able to provide only 450 jobs.
 
He said that, at a time when jobs were the single biggest challenge facing the country, it was said that a Union Minister, Mr. Piyush Goyal, had said that job losses were a good sign because it indicated that more youth were turning entrepreneurs.
 
Mr. Gandhi said anger was building up amongst the youth and farmers across the country because they saw no future for themselves under the present dispensation.
 
He said wherever the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power, farmer suicides were up as the government had failed to ensure a fair price for their produce.
 
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Mr. Gandhi said Mr. Modi talked about the "Gujarat model" of development and often claimed that his state was ahead of other states on various parameters. 
 
The Congress Vice-President went on to provide details of the Virbhadra Singh government's performance in Himachal Pradesh in the last five years and compared it with that of the BJP government in Gujarat. He said that on several parameters, such as creation of jobs, payment of unemployment allowance and opening of government schools, colleges and health centres, the performance of the Himachal Pradesh government was much better than that of the Gujarat government.
 
"Virbhadra Singhji, you spoke about how this was your sixth term as Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. You will be Chief Minister for the seven time. We will bring the Congress back to power in the state," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi urged the people to vote the Congress back to power in the state. 
 
He said a country like India could not be ruled by a person who did not listen to or take advice from anyone. He said India needed a leader who listened to the people's views and understood their aspirations.
 
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Modi lays foundation stones for AIIMS at Bilaspur, IIIT at Una in Himachal Pradesh

 
Modi lays foundation stones for AIIMS, IIIT in Himachal Pradesh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today laid the foundation stone for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh.
 
The 750-bed hospital will be built at a cost of approximately Rs. 1350 crore, an official press release said.
 
In addition to healthcare, it will also provide medical education at the under-graduate and post-graduate level, besides nursing. The Prime Minister also unveiled a plaque to mark the launch of Digital Nerve Centres for primary healthcare. 
 
Mr. Modi also laid the foundation stone for the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), at Una. 
 
He also inaugurated a Steel Processing Unit of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), at Kandrori, Kangra. 
 
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42 dead as landslide hits two buses in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh

At least 42 persons died when they were buried under tonnes of mud and debris after a massive landslide swept away two buses in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh late last night, official sources said.
 
"We have recovered 42 bodies so far," Mandi Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kadam told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene of the tragedy late this evening.
 
He said five persons had so far been rescued alive from the scene and taken to a nearby hospital, from where two had been referred to the Government hospital in state capital Shimla. One person was admitted to the Mandi government hospital while two were discharged after first aid.
 
Mr. Kadam said three bodies were recovered from one bus, which was on its way from Manali to Katra, while the remaining bodies were found in the second bus, which was going from Chamba to Manali.
 
Official sources said out of the eight persons in the first bus, three had died and five had suffered injuries.
 
In the second bus, there was an estimated 44 people on board, and bodies of 39 of them have been recovered so far. Search and rescue teams were continuing their efforts to look for the remaining person, they said.
 
The tragedy struck a little past midnight last night near Joginder Nagar in the Kotrupi area of the district, about 35 km from the district headquarters, on national highway (NH)-21 between Pathankot and Mandi. The Chamba-Manali bus was swept away some 800 metres down into a gorge where it was completely buried under tonnes of mud. Both buses belonged to the Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation.
 
District officials, police, fire brigade and other emergency services personnel, including teams from the Army and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), were engaged in the search and rescue efforts.
 
Mr. Kadam said tonnes of mud came sliding down onto a 150-metre stretch of the highway, sweeping away everything in its path. Traffic on the highway has been stopped as the rescue operations were taken up on a war footing.
 
He said that, while rains had hampered rescue efforts in the first few hours last night, the skies had cleared during the day today and helped the search and rescue teams to clear a lot of the debris. 
 
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh visited the scene of the landslide during the day today and directed the officials to intensify the search and rescue efforts. He said the operations would continue till all the passengers were accounted for.
 
The state government has announced financial assistance of Rs. 4 lakh to the next-of-kin of those killed in the  incident, while the HRTC would give Rs. 1 lakh.
 
In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives in the mishap. 
 
“Pained by the loss of lives due to landslide related accidents in HP’s Mandi district. My condolences with the families of the deceased," he said on Twitter.
 
"I pray for the quick recovery of those injured in Mandi district, Himachal Pradesh.
 
"Team of NDRF is going to Mandi to take part in the rescue and relief operations and provide all possible assistance required," he added.
 
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Six dead, several trapped as landslide hits two buses in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh

At least six persons have died and more people are feared trapped under debris after a massive landslide swept away two buses, a car and a motorcycle in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh late last night, official sources said.
 
"We have recovered six bodies so far -- three each from the two buses. We are searching for the others," Mandi Deputy Commissione Sandeep Kadam told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene.
 
Mr. Kadam said there were about eight people in one bus, while there was no clarity about the number of people in the second one. The mishap occurred around 1 am today near Joginder Nagar in the Kotrupi area of the district, he said.
 
District officials, police, fire brigade and other emergency services personnel, including teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), were engaged in the search and rescue efforts. The injured were rushed to nearby hospitals.
 
Mr. Kadam said tonnes of mud came sliding down onto a 150-metre stretch of the highway, sweeping everything in its path. One of the buses was swept away 800 metres down into a gorge.
 
Sources said one bus was on its way from Chamba to Manali and the other was on its way from Manali to Katra.
 
They said heavy rains in the area were hampering the search and rescue operations.
 
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