At least 32 people were feared dead after a bus carrying wedding guests was swept away by a flooded stream into a gorge Thursday in India's state of Jammu and Kashmir, according to local media reports. The region has been reportedly facing its worst floods in 22 years, and authorities predict heavy rains could continue for two more days.
The accident reportedly occurred when the bus, carrying nearly 50 passengers, was on its way to a wedding ceremony in a village about 120 miles southwest of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Police officials reportedly said that rescue teams had been sent to the scene but heavy rains were hampering the operation. Some local reports said that six people, who were in the bus, have so far been rescued.
“Six passengers have survived and 32 people have died,” an official said, according to a local report while another local official, reportedly said, "Witnesses said 50 to 60 people were in the bus when it fell into a gorge after it was swept away by flood waters."
The heavy rains, which have continued for the past three days and triggered a flood alert in the state, have so far claimed the lives of at least 16 people in separate flood-related incidents.
According to local reports, the state government has asked the Indian Air Force to keep its helicopters on standby for rescue operations while Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday called on the state government to prepare adequate safety measures.
“Flood alert has been sounded in Srinagar city and all emergency services have been pressed into service to meet the eventuality of a flood,” Farooq Ahmad Shah, the deputy commissioner of Srinagar, reportedly said.
Rescue operations in flood-affected areas were launched by army troops at various sites, while authorities stopped train services in the area affected by the flood, local reports said.
Officials reportedly said that at least 100 villages across the Kashmir valley were flooded by overflowing lakes and rivers, including the Jhelum river, which was flowing 4 feet above its danger mark.