Bhubaneswar, Oct. 12: Three persons were seriously injured when a tourist bus skidded off the National Highway-203 and fell into a ditch near Teisipur, 10km from Pipili, this afternoon.
The injured included the driver of the bus, which was carrying 42 tourists from Uttar Pradesh. The victims were on their way to Puri.
The incident took place around 12.15pm when the driver lost control and the vehicle careened down into the water-filled ditch. Twelve other persons escaped with minor injuries.
A local resident said the accident could have been worse had the bus fallen into the middle of the water body. However, the bus was inundated in the water.
“The vehicle landed in the shallow part of the water body. So, the impact was less,” said local resident Kedarnath Ojha.
Hearing the passengers screaming, the local residents rushed to the spot and rescued them by breaking the windows of the bus along with Pipili police.
Later, they were taken to Pipili Hospital and Sakshigopal Hospital.
An official of Pipili police station said restlessness of the driver might have caused the accident.
“As he has been driving long distances at a stretch, the driver might have dosed off for a while. As the road is packed with fresh soil, the bus slipped off the road,” said inspector in charge of Pipili police station Ratnakar Mallick.
The expansion of the highway is under progress. The 42-member group of the tourists, including 20 women, had started their journey on October 2 and covered various religious places of Uttar Pradesh, including Ayodhya and Varanasi.
After completing the Calcutta leg of the tour, the group was scheduled to reach Puri this evening. They planned to stay in Puri for four days before leaving for Uttar Pradesh on October 17.
“I was sleeping when the incident took place. Within a fraction of a second, we found ourselves submerged in water. The local people and the police rescued us,” said Jagdish Prasad, who has sustained head injuries.
However, the tourists are caught in a tricky situation because they have no idea how to reach home.
“The bus is badly damaged and we do not have other alternative modes of transport to reach home. As this is the festival season, chances of getting a railway ticket appear impossible. The tourism department of Odisha should help us reach our homes,” said S.S. Gupta, a tourist.
The tourists were seen collecting their belongings from the submerged bus after the accident. They had to wait for several hours to reach Puri. Later, they were sent in small groups by autorickshaws with the help of local residents.
“We helped them take out their belongings from the submerged bus. All of them are guests of our state. So, we tried our best to help in every possible way we could,” said Manoj Pradhan, another local resident.
In a similar incident, in February this year, four tourists died in a bus mishap in Dhauli.
The bus, with 41 people, including 12 women and three kids on board, was coming down the hill when the driver lost control and crashed through the roadside barrier, tumbling down at least 15 feet into the gorge full of trees.