As many as 33 people died after a bus carrying 34 passengers fell into a ravine in the mountainous region of Raigad district in Maharashtra on Saturday.

All the passengers were staffers of Konkan Agriculture University in Ratnagiri and were on their way to the popular tourist destinations of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani on the Mumbai-Goa highway for a weekend picnic.

According to police, the bus fell 500 feet down into the valley near Poladpur in the treacherous Ambenali Ghat section around 9 am.

Raigad Police Control Room official PD Patil said there were some women among the staff.

Prakash Sawant-Desai, one of the bus occupants, escaped the tragedy with minor injuries. He managed to climb to safety and alerted his university about the accident around 10.30 am. He is the sole survivor of the accident.

The university informed the police about the accident.

While local villagers and others started a search and rescue operation soon, poor connectivity in the remote hills and heavy rains along the Konkan coast made the efforts difficult. A National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) team from Pune was called shortly.

According to reports, local trekkers were deployed to assist in the rescue mission.

“Our teams from the local police station are on the spot. NDRF teams have been called in. Local trekkers are also on the job,” said Sandeep Patil, Superintendent of Police of Satara district, said in the morning.

Later, Sawant-Desai told reporters that the bus reportedly lost control near Poladpur after skidding on wet mud.

“I managed to climb up and called up Dr. Balasaaheb Sawant, Konkan Agriculture University authorities and the police,” said Sawant-Desai, an assistant director at the university.

He said he had to climb over 500 feet as there was no mobile phone range in the valley. “On reaching the road at the top, I came into the mobile range and called up the police and university officials,” said Sawant-Desai.

As a precautionary measure, the police have blocked the Poladpur-Mahabaleshwar road.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Congress president Rahul Gandhi were among those who expressed grief.

“Extremely saddened to learn about the tragic bus accident in Raigad, Maharashtra. Rescue efforts are on to help affected people. Thoughts and prayers with the bereaved families and with those injured,” wrote the President on Twitter.

 

PM Modi said, “Pained by the loss of lives due to a bus accident in Maharashtra’s Raigad district. My condolences to those who lost their loved ones.”

 

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed grief over the incident and said that his administration had deployed senior officials and emergency management systems at the accident spot.

“Pained to know about the loss of lives in the Mahabaleshwar bus accident. The administration is taking all efforts to provide required assistance. Senior officials and emergency management systems in place. My thoughts are with families who lost loved ones and prayers for speedy recovery of injured,” he tweeted.

 

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, too, took to Twitter to offer condolences and urged party workers to help the injured and the family members of the deceased.

“I’m sorry to hear about the terrible bus accident in Raigad, Maharashtra in which a large number of people have been killed and many others injured. I appeal to Congress party workers in the area to provide all possible assistance to the injured & families of those who have died,” he wrote.

 

(With agency inputs)