(Eds: Updates toll) Bhopal/Sidhi/Rewa (MP), Feb 16 (PTI) At least 47 people, including 20 women and two children, were killed when a packed private bus skidded off the road and plunged into a water-filled canal in Madhya Pradesh's Sidhi district on Tuesday morning, a senior official said.
The accident took place near Patna village, around 80 km from the Sidhi district headquarters, when the ill-fated bus was on its way to Satna from Sidhi, he said.
With two more bodies recovered in the evening, the rescuers have retrieved 47 bodies from the canal so far, Sidhi district collector Ravindra Kumar Choudhary told reporters.
'A total of 47 bodies - 25 of men, 20 women and two children - have been fished out of the Bansagar canal until now,' Choudhary said.
He said a rescue operation at the accident site, involving State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel and local authorities, was stopped in the evening due to darkness and will resume on Wednesday morning.
We have got information that may be four or five passengers are still missing. So, we will continue the rescue operation (on Wednesday) to ensure no missing person remains untraced,' the collector said.
Choudhary said all the deceased have been identified.
He said at the time of the accident, the water level in the canal was about 25 feet.
Rewa Divisional Commissioner Rajesh Jain, under whose jurisdiction the accident took place, said a magisterial probe has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.
'Seven persons managed to swim to safety,' he said.
The packed bus, coming from Sidhi and going to Satna, veered off the road and rolled down into the canal which is part of the Bansagar dam project at around 8:30 AM, said Inspector General (Rewa zone) Umesh Joga.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief at the 'horrific' bus accident and approved an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of those who lost their lives.
Modi said, 'The bus accident in MP's Sidhi is horrific. Condolences to the bereaved families. The local administration is actively involved in rescue and relief work.' Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan expressed grief over the tragedy and announced a separate ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased.
'I have also sent Water Resources Minister Tulsiram Silawat and MOS for Panchyat Ramkhelawan Patel to the spot,' Chouhan said in Bhopal.
The Chief Minister said he ordered to stop the water outflow from the Bansagar dam so that water level in the canal could go down and help in the rescue operation.
Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath also expressed grief over the bus tragedy.
Eyewitnesses said the bus completely immersed in the canal water and was not visible in the morning hours.
Later, the district administration stopped the release of water into the canal from the Bansagar project, which brought the water level down, they said.
Meanwhile, in view of the accident, the CM cancelled a house-warming ceremony to be attended virtually by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Shah was scheduled to take part in the programme, scheduled to be held at 11 AM in Bhopal, for the beneficiaries of over one lakh houses constructed in Madhya Pradesh under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). PTI COR ADU KR AAR NSK RSY RSY