By Robin Gomes
India’s Catholic bishops have expressed their condolence at a school bus accident in the Himalayan foothills in the north, in which at least 30 were killed, mostly children.
The tragedy occurred about 325 km from Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh state, when a school bus carrying home some 40 students from their school in Nurpur in Kangra district, plunged some 60 meters into a gorge.
Initial reports indicated the bus driver was speeding when he lost control of the vehicle at the edge of the gorge and fell 60 meters to the ground below, according to police.
Road accidents are common in India, often due to poor driving or badly maintained roads and vehicles.
India’s Catholic bishops’ condolence
The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) has expressed its condolences at the tragedy. CBCI Secretary-General, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas spoke to Vatican News.
Voicing the sentiments of the bishops, he said it is a “very sad day for us.” He noted most of the children were below 10 years of age, whom the parents looked up to as they grew.
The bishops expressed their condolences and closeness to the families and prayed that God might “receive these children in his arms.”
Bishop Mascarenhas lamented that frequent road accidents in India are claiming many lives because road safety norms are disregarded. He hoped the government will do something to ensure safety to children.
The bishop also deplored the poor state of healthcare in India, saying many of the injured children had to be taken to the nearby state of Punjab because of inadequate hospitals in Himachal Pradesh.
Earlier on Monday, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi expressed his pain at the tragedy. “I am deeply anguished by the loss of lives due to a bus accident in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. My prayers and solidarity with those who lost their near and dear ones in the accident,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
He also announced an ex gratia of Rs. 2 lakhs for next of kin of those killed and Rs. 50,000 for those seriously injured, in the accident.