Mandi: At least 50 persons are feared dead in one of the deadliest landslides in recent times at Kotrupi near here. So far rescuers have pulled out 46 bodies from the debris.

As per sources, the death toll was likely to rise as the authorities were still carrying out a headcount of people present in the area at the time. Preliminary estimates put the number of people affected in excess of 100.

State Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh who reached the spot by road due to inclement weather unsuitable for helicopter flight has declared a compensation of Rs five lakh to the kith and kin of each person killed in the accident.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences on Twitter Saying: “Pained by the loss of lives due to landslide-related accidents in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district. My condolences with the families of the deceased,” Modi tweeted.

The landslide engulfed an area of 800 metres along the Pathankot-Mandi National Highway at Kotrupi. Sources said a cloudburst caused an entire hillside to slide down into a gorge in the dead of the night – sweeping away houses, two buses, a roadside eatery (dhaba), and a few smaller vehicles around 1 AM on Sunday.

The two Himachal Roadways buses had stopped at the roadside dhaba for refreshments. One of the buses was enroute to Chamba from Manali, while the other one was on its way to Katra (Jammu) from Manali. The bus headed for Chamba was carrying 7 to 10 passengers of whom four girls had been rescued as per latest reports. so far around 12 people had been rescued.

The bus destined for Katra had around 50 passengers on board and was still to be traced, being completely buried under the debris. State Transport minister G S Bali said in a Facebook post: “Rescue operations have been continuing since 2 am and I am in constant touch with the district authorities and other related officials. Owing to the seriousness of the issue, Army has been called.”

The rescue operations are being carried out by disaster management teams from the Army and NDRF aided by the police, civil administration and the local populace.

The highway has been closed for traffic. The District Administration has opened three helplines 01905-226201, 202,203 for the general public to make inquiries.

(With agency inputs)