50 feared dead as bus plunges into gorge in India

SRINAGAR, India (AFP) - At least 50 people were feared killed when flood waters swept a bus carrying a wedding party into a gorge in the mountainous Indian state of Kashmir on Thursday.

Police said rescue teams had been sent to the scene of the disaster, but heavy rains and the depth of the river were making it difficult to reach the victims.

"Rescue teams are there, including a column of the army," police inspector-general Rajesh Kumar told AFP.

"Airforce rescue helicopters are also ready, but heavy rains and a strong current in the stream make it difficult," he said, adding that some of the passengers on board might have escaped to safety.

Flooding has hit hundreds of villages across the Kashmir valley in the last 24 hours after days of heavy rain.

At least 16 people have been killed in separate flood-related incidents since Wednesday evening.

The bus accident occurred in Rajouri, 350 kilometres south of the region's main city of Srinagar.

"Witnesses said 50 to 60 people were in the bus when it fell into a gorge after it was swept away by flood waters," said the divisional commissioner Shantmanu, who goes by only one name.

Another regional divisional commissioner, Mr Rohit Kansal, said heavy rains were forecast to continue for another 24 hours and authorities were evacuating people to safer areas.

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