8 devotees killed in Himachal accident

Shimla, March 2 (IANS) Eight devotees from Punjab were killed when a private vehicle skidded off the road and fell into a gorge on the Chandigarh-Manali national highway in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh on early Friday, police said.

The devotees, belonging to Kale Ghanpur village near Amritsar town, were returning home after paying obeisance at a famous Sikh shrine at Manikaran in Kullu district when the accident occurred near Swarghat, about 120 km from the state capital.

One person got grievous injuries and was admitted to a government hospital in Nalagarh.

“Most of the dead belonged to close-knit families,” a police official told IANS.

Eyewitnesses said the Innova vehicle was overcrowded and the driver probably lost control while negotiating a turn.

Rescuers, mostly locals, had a tough time in extracting the victims from the vehicle, said an eyewitness.

The Manikaran shrine, located in the Parvati Valley along the banks of the Parvati river, is some 50 km from the Kullu district headquarters and 250 km from state capital Shimla.

It’s one of the busiest Sikh shrines in north India and frequented by the devotees, especially during festivals like Holi.