Armymen fail to retrieve missing bus passengers

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Coimbatore, Jun 5 (UNI) Thirty Madras Regiment Military personnel led by Major Ajay Balakrishnan and 55 fire rescue personnel led by District Fire Officer Ganapathy returned empty-handed today after a long search for 13 missing passengers, who travelled in the state-owned bus, which plunged into a gorge in Udhagamandalam yesterday.

Police sources said the district administration had sought the assistance of the Army as police and fire service personnel could not trace the missing persons.

Seventy seven passengers were travelling in the ill-fated bus, when it plunged into the gorge while it was proceeding from Ooty to Moyar on the Kallatti ghat section yesterday.

While 11 passengers were crushed to death, 53 others sustained injuries and the fate of the remaining 13 was not known.

The local people and police suspected that the missing passengers' bodies might be lying among the bushes in the 800-ft deep valley into which the bus fell.

The district administration had requested the Madras Regiment for search operation to trace the missing persons. The military personnel and fire officials had searched for about eight hours in the deep valley. But, they could not trace the missing passengers.

Meanwhile, the locals at Masinagudi today observed a day's bandh to mourn the deceased victims. The State-owned Transport Corporation operated one bus from Ooty to Masinagudi this evening.

The locals lay seige to the bus, protesting against the transport officials for sending an old bus in the Ghat section.

Later, after getting an assurance from the officials, the locals relented.


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