NEW DELHI: A bus has swerved off a mountain road and plunged into a deep ravine in a Himalayan region of northern India, killing 44 people, an official said Wednesday.
Only two of the 46 people on board the bus survived when it flew off a cliff and into a river in northern Himachal Pradesh state, around 115 kilometres (70 miles) from the capital Shimla.
Ten others earlier believed to be aboard the bus had in fact alighted before the accident, said Rohan Chand Thakur, deputy commissioner of Shimla.
"Unfortunately there are only two survivors, including the conductor of the bus who managed to jump out in time. 44 others have died," Thakur told AFP.
"We are now bringing the last four bodies out."
Officials at the accident site near Nerwa village were trying to identify the dead, he added.
Images of the scene showed luggage strewn around the mangled chassis of the bus on the ravine floor, as volunteers and local residents scoured the site.
D.W. Negi, senior police superintendent of Shimla, said 11 women and three children were among the dead.
Local television networks reported that the driver informed passengers shortly before the accident that the bus suspension was damaged.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to the families who had lost loved ones, and said he was "extremely anguished by the accident.
Compensation of 200,000 rupees ($3,100) would be awarded to the families of those killed, and 50,000 ($770) for the injured, Modi added.
India has some of the world´s deadliest roads with more than 150,000 fatalities annually due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.
In February, 16 people were killed and more than 50 injured when a truck carrying churchgoers overturned in a hilly region of northeast India.
Survivors said the driver was manoeuvring recklessly and lost control of the vehicle in the rugged terrain.
A month earlier 13 people -- mostly children aged between seven and 14 -- were killed when a school bus collided with a truck in northern India.