At least 33 non-teaching staff members of an educational institution based in Maharashtra’s Dapoli town were feared dead on Saturday when the bus carrying them on a study tour skidded and plunged into an 800-feet gorge One person miraculously survived the accident .
The accident, whose cause was yet to be ascertained, took place off Ambeni Ghat in Raigad district at around 11.30am, according to the police.
The victims were from the Dr. Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth . University registrar Ketan Chaudhary said the non-teaching staff from the agricultural engineering department were headed for a study tour to the Regional Wheat Rust Rese-arch Station in Mahableshwar. “This was partly an outing and partly a study tour and such visits by university teams happened frequently,” a university empl-oyee said. Assistant superintendent in the agricultural engineering department Prakash Sawant Desai was the lone survivor.
He jumped out of the falling bus and was caught in a tree. An injured Desai climbed up the gorge and called for help on a mobile phone.
“One person was thrown off the bus and survived to tell what happened,” said police inspector Balkrushna Jadhav of Raigad police.
Raigad district collector Vijay Suryavanshi said the 34 people on board the bus included two drivers who were also employees of the university.
The lone survivor, Desai, said mud and loose stones on one particular stretch of the road caused the bus tyres to skid.
“The bus veered to the left and fell into the gorge before we could understand what was happening. Trees arrested the fall someway down. I had managed to jump out in time. I climbed my way up somehow,” he said.
Two employees who were supposed to join the group opted out at the last moment due to other engagements.
The depth of the gorge made it difficult for rescue workers to reach the wreckage of the bus . Till 7.20 pm, 13 bodies had been recovered and 11 handed over to relatives of the victims. The district administration ensured that each body was accompanied by a driver and attendant and was handed over to the relatives who had gathered at the Poladpur primary health centre.
Five teams were engaged in the rescue operation along with a team of 30 personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Pune. Another rescue team was expected on Sunday morning.
While traffic had been stopped on both sides of the Ambenali Ghat to assist rescue operations, diesel generator sets had been placed at the site with powerful halogen lamps to light up the area for the rescue operations to continue in the dark.
“Administration taking all efforts to provide required assistance. Senior officials and emergency management systems in place,” Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted. “My thoughts are with families who lost loved ones and prayers for speedy recovery of injured.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief at the death and offered condolencesto the kin of the deceased.