There were altogether 74 passengers and all except three people — the bus driver, his helper and a woman — were Indian nationals

At least 18 Indian pilgrims were killed and 53 others injured when an overloaded bus carrying them veered off a mountain road and rolled about 100 meters before plunging into a river in western Nepal, officials said on Tuesday.

“All 18 people who died in the accident were Indian nationals, mostly from Uttar Pradesh,” Chief District Administrator Ram Bahadur Purumbang told PTI.

Plunges into river

A total of 56 people were injured in the accident when the bus plunged into the Madi river in Pyuthan district, 750 km west of Kathmandu, on Monday night.

There were altogether 74 passengers and all except three people — the bus driver, his helper and a woman — were Indian nationals who were returning from a famous Hindu pilgrimage in Swargadwari, Mr. Purumbang said.

Fifteen people died on the spot and three breathed their last while undergoing treatment at a local hospital, he said.

15 in serious condition

“Out of 56 people, who sustained injuries, the condition of 15 is said to be serious,” he said.

“The driver was trying to dial a number on his cell phone while the vehicle skidded off the narrow road,” Jamuna Pokharel, who survived the accident, was quoted as saying by Kathmandu Post.

The injured passengers are undergoing treatment in different hospitals in Butawal and Bhairahawa in western Nepal.

Nine identified

Out of the 18 killed, nine have been identified and seven were claimed by their families, the spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in New Delhi.

The spokesperson said the Indian mission is coordinating arrangements at Bhairahawa to ensure all assistance to relatives of pilgrims killed in the accident.