The horrific smash sheered the bus roof clean off
At least 48 people were killed and many others badly injured in northern India on Sunday when an overcrowded bus hurtled into a gorge in the Himalayan foothills, the latest horror smash in a country with notoriously perilous roads.
Rescue teams managed to recover 13 passengers alive from the twisted remains of the bus that plunged to bottom of a ravine in hilly Pauri Garhwal district in Uttarakhand.
But many were in a very serious condition, police said, with fears the death toll from one of India's worst road accidents this year could rise.
District magistrate Sushil Kumar said 61 people were aboard a bus designed to transport just 28 passengers.
"It was overloaded, and the driver apparently lost control," he told AFP.
"Of those 61 passengers, 48 are now confirmed dead."
The bus crashed with such force into the ravine that the roof was sheared clean off the vehicle. The bus was found twisted on the valley floor in the hilly state northeast of New Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was "extremely saddened" by news of the accident and offered his condolences to the families of the dead.
"I pray that those injured recover at the earliest. Rescue operations are underway and authorities are providing all possible assistance at the accident site," the prime minister's office posted on Twitter, attributing the remarks to Modi.
Senior district superintendent of police J. R. Joshi said investigators had yet to pin-point what caused the accident but were examining the crash scene.
"Some are saying that the outer part of the road caved in a bit, which could have led to the accident. We are still investigating," he said.
India has some of the world's deadliest roads and lives are frequently lost in the mountainous north, where narrow hairpin turns cut paths into the steep Himalayan foothills.
More than 150,000 people are killed in road accidents each year with most deaths blamed on poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.
Even given India's atrocious record on road safety, this accident was the worst in many months.
In neighbouring Himachal Pradesh state in April, a bus carrying young students home from school crashed into a gorge killing 30 on board, including 27 children.
That same month, at least 21 wedding revellers were killed when their truck flew off a bridge in central Madhya Pradesh state.
Days later, 13 children died after a train collided with a small school bus at an unmanned railway crossing in Uttar Pradesh state.
Last month, a truck overturned and killed 19 labourers who were crushed under cement sacks that fell from the vehicle as it toppled.