SAMBALPUR/BHUBANESWAR: In a tragic incident, at least 27 persons, including women and children, were killed after a bus carrying around 40 members of an opera troupe fell 200 feet off a hill in Deogarh district on Sunday evening.
The vehicle skidded off Gayal Ghat and nosedived into the ravine. The mishap took place at Kailash Chowk on the ghat road, about 15 km from Deogarh town.
Eleven injured passengers, who were rescued from the spot, have been admitted to Deogarh District Headquarters Hospital and three of them later moved to VSS Institute of Medical Sciences and Research in a critical condition.
The casualty is likely to go up even as rescue and relief operations have been intensified by the police, fire brigade and CRPF personnel. Members of Bharati Gana Natya, the opera party, were returning after a performance in Dengurjhar village under Paniposhi gram panchayat of Tileibani block when the mishap took place. The road where the accident occurred begins from Laimura and connects NH 49 at Kailash Chowk.
Director General of Police KB Singh said a unit of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force has been mobilised to the mishap spot to speed up rescue operation. National Disaster Management Authority unit has also been alerted. Ambulances have been despatched, he added.
The Fire Services and Home Guard unit also sent its teams from Barkot, Riamal, Deogarh and Pallahara to the mishap scene. "A team led by Deputy Fire Officer of Sambalpur has been sent with light, power back-up and cutter equipment to intensify rescue. The operations will continue all night," DG, Fire Services Binoy Behera said.
Two bikers, who were behind the bus, first saw the vehicle nosedive off the hill. The pillion rider stayed back at the spot, while the driver chased a truck which was carrying the materials of the opera party and informed the staff about the incident.
Local MLA Nitesh Gangdeb, who was returning to Deogarh after attending a meeting at Jharagagua in Tileibani block, mobilised villagers and informed police and fire brigade. Eye-witnesses said, women of Kailash village were the first to rescue a woman along with a child who were admitted to Deogarh Hospital.
Till last reports came in, five ambulances, two police vans and two fire tenders were engaged to shift the injured.
Since vehicles found it difficult to access the spot, villagers helped shift the injured on stretchers after trekking about 3 km.
The opera party is owned by Sitaram Pradhan of Remta village under Barpali police station in Bargarh district. The troupe had left the village in a private bus 'Jannat' which was owned by a resident of Bargarh, Kalim on April 12 to perform in Deogarh district. The bus driver was Ashok Banchor of Tora in suburbs of Bargarh.
The bus was on its way back to Remta on Sunday evening. They were supposed to travel to outlying Odia speaking tracts in neighbouring Chattisgarh on Monday.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed deep grief over the incident and ordered to expedite rescue operation. BJP state president Basant Panda too expressed condolences.