At least 39 persons, most of them Indian pilgrims, were killed while over a dozen others are missing after a passenger bus fell into the Gandak canal in Kudiya-6 of Nawalparasi district around seven kilometers north of Nepal-India border Sunday afternoon.
Of the deceased, 10 are women, one a girl and the rest 28 men. Most of them are aged between 25 to 40 years.
The overcrowded bus (Lu 1 Kha 2356) heading for Triveni from Jhulanipur of the district with pilgrims for a Shrawan Sankranti fair lost control and plunged into the canal at 12:30 in the afternoon, according to Superintendent of police (SP) in Nawalparasi Gyan Bikram Shah. The water of Triveni is used for worship in Shiva temples and the pilgrims were going to Triveni to take water to worship Lord Shiva at a temple in Itaiya of India.
Police said the bus lost control due to overspeeding and plunged into the canal. “The driver was driving the bus recklessly,” said injured passenger Grihadesh Kushwaha. Most of the victims are Indian pilgrims from neighboring villages of Sirauli and Nichlaul of Maharajgunj district in Uttar Pradesh, India.
The dead have been identified as Sushila Dulare, Premi Faujdar, Ayodhya Bhediyar, Shyam Kumari Bhediyar, Dashaudi Bhediyar, Bandhan Pal, Munna Sunar, Keshav Kohar, Baidyanath Hullu, Nebulal Yadav, Dharma Raj Chamar, Dhiraj Yadav, Chinky Chamar, Radhika Chamar, Bablu Kanaudiya, Congress Yadav and Soni Ansari of India, helper Sashi Shrestha and Yashoda GC of Bardaghat, Nawalparasi, and Gaffur Ansari of Susta. The other bodies have yet to be identified. Driver Bishnu Gurung is absconding, SP Shah quoted passengers and other eyewitnesses as saying.
Over a dozen passengers who could swim survived the accident while those who could not died. Even some passengers who could swim were dragged inside the water by the panic-stricken passengers who could not swim. “I was dragged into the water by those who could not swim. I finally shoved them off and swam to safety,” said Deepak Kunwar of Susta. Five survivors are being treated at Parasi Hospital while the others are receiving treatment at Bardaghat.
Nepal Police, Nepal Army and Armed Police Force (APF) personnel along with locals carried out rescue work after the accident but nobody could be rescued alive. The rescuers started to recover the bodies at around two in the afternoon. It is yet to be officially ascertained how many persons were aboard the bus but police estimated the overcrowded bus was carrying over 100 passengers and feared dozens could still be missing.
Security personnel were busy in rescue works till late in the evening but officers claimed there is little chance of finding more survivors or dead bodies on the Nepali side.