SAMBALPUR/BHUBANESWAR: In a tragic incident, at least 30 persons, including women and children, were killed after a bus carrying around 38 members of an opera troupe fell 200 feet off a hill in Deogarh district on Sunday evening.
The vehicle skidded off a steep hairpin bend on Gayal Ghat and nosedived into the ravine. The mishap took place at Kailash Chowk on the ghat road, about 15 km from Deogarh town.
Till the report was filed, the rescue teams had recovered 27 bodies from the accident site. As many as 11 injured passengers were rescued and shifted to Deogarh District Hospital. Three of them, who were critically hurt, died on way to VSS Institute of Medical Sciences and Research at Burla even as a huge rescue and relief operation was mounted by the police, fire brigade and CRPF personnel under supervision of Deogarh SP Sarah Sharma.
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 (ODRAF) was mobilised to the mishap spot to expedite rescue operation. National Disaster Management Authority unit was alerted. Ambulances have been pressed into rescue and relief operations, he added.
The Fire Services and Home Guard unit also sent their teams from Barkot, Riamal, Deogarh and Pallahara to the mishap site. “A team led by Deputy Fire Officer of Sambalpur is present at the site with high-mast 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 going behind the bus, first saw the vehicle fell off the hill. How the bus driver lost control was yet to be ascertained. The pillion rider stayed back at the spot, while the driver chased a truck which was ahead of the bus carrying the materials of the opera party. He first informed the truck staff about the incident.
Local MLA Nitesh Gangdeb, on his way back 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.
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 is 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 opera team was supposed to travel to outlying Odia speaking tracts in neighbouring Chattisgarh on Monday.
Cm Expresses Grief
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed deep grief over the incident and ordered expedited rescue operation. “Directed intensive engagement of District Administration & Emergency Authorities in Deogarh accident; my prayers with the bereaved & injured,” he also tweeted around mid-night. BJP state president Basant Panda too expressed condolences.
The rescue teams and locals - who first took up the task - faced an “uphill” challenge in recovering the dead bodies and shifting the injured from the bus which had fallen into the ravine. While bringing each victim out of the crumbled vehicle took 30 minutes, what was more tedious was shifting them to the nearest motor point which was 1.5 km up the hill.