At least 50 people are feared dead after two buses were swept away by a massive landslide Sunday in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
The incident that took place on the Mandi-Pathankot national highway in Kotroopi area of the state's Mandi district, some 220 km from state capital Shimla, early Sunday morning.
"Around 50 people are feared to have been washed away in the landslide," Himachal Pradesh's Transport Minister G.S. Bali told the media.
While one bus was on its way to Chamba district from the resort town of Manali, another was on its way to Katra in the neighboring state of Jammu and Kashmir from Manali.
Local TV channels reported that the two buses were stationed at a roadside eatery located on the highway for refreshments when the disaster occurred.
Mandi's deputy commissioner Sandeep Kadam said that the Indian Army and the National Disaster Response Force have been called in to help out the local police in the rescue operations.
The army along with the local authorities and the National Disaster Response Force are carrying out a search and rescue operation. Five people have been rescued, an official said. Eight bodies have been recovered, including the driver and the conductor of Chamba depot Chanden Sharma and Satpal, respectively.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh tweeted he is on his way to the accident site, adding the NDRF has been called in.
"Immediate relief will be provided," Mr Singh said.
The landslide happened at Kotrupi, 220 kilometres from Shimla. The police said the two buses were parked on the highway while the passengers were out for snacks just before the landslide happened. It swept away the buses 800 metres down into a gorge and buried one of the buses completely.
One of the buses was going from Chamba to Manali and the other from Manali to Katra. Director General of Police Somesh Goyal said eight passengers were travelling in the Manali-Katra bus while 47 passengers were in the other bus.
The number of people who are feared dead in the landslide is likely to increase, Mandi Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kadam told reporters.