At least 18 people were today killed and 24 others injured when a private bus plunged into the Beas river near Vindravani in Mandi district, about 155 km from here.
The ill-fated bus with over 40 passengers on board was travelling to Kullu from Manali when it veered off the road while trying to avoid a motorcyclist and fell into the turbulent Beas, police officers said.
Fourteen people died on the spot, three succumbed to their injuries in the zonal hospital at Mandi, while one critically injured person died on the way to Indira Gandhi Medical College in Shimla, police said.
The incident took place hardly 3 km from Mandi. The injured people were rushed to the zonal hospital there. Mandi Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kadam and IG Ajay Yadav immediately reached the spot along with rescue teams.
Though there was only a remote possibility of passengers getting washed away in the river, divers have been called in as a precautionary measure to locate missing persons, if any, Kadam said.
The Mandi DC said rescue operations were in progress and all possible help is being provided to the victims. Mandi SDM, Vivek Chandel, said Rs 15,000 has been given as immediate relief to the next of kin of the deceased while the injured have been given Rs 5,000 each.
Transport minister G S Bali expressed deep shock over the accident and said a magisterial inquiry has been ordered to ascertain its cause.