At least 30 people, including 27 school children, were killed after a private bus skidded off the road and rolled down deep into a gorge in Nurpur area of Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh on Monday. Twelve injured passengers were rushed to the hospital and are in critical condition.

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"The bus rolled into a 200ft-deep gorge, killing 27 schoolchildren, two teachers and the driver," said Santosh Patyal, a senior local police official.

"My first priority was to save lives. We will now investigate the reasons for the accident," he said.

Most of the students were in the age of 10 to 12 years. Local villagers had begun rescue operation even before officials could reach the spot, eyewitnesses said. Around 45 students of Wazir Ram Singh Pathania Memorial Public School were returning home when the bus skidded off road and fell into the 100-feet deep gorge. Teams of local administration and the National Disaster Response Force were involved in the rescue and faced a tough time in pulling out the victims from the mangled bus.

"Prima facie, negligent driving and over-speeding are the main reasons for the accident," an official said. Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Governor Acharya Devvrat and Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda condoled the deaths. A magisterial inquiry has been ordered.

Just nine years old boy Ranbir Singh and returning home from his first day in school after a break, Ranbir Singh crawled back on the road and informed a man passing by on a motorcycle about the accident. The boy also alerted a shopkeeper about 150 m away on the Malakwal-Symbly link leading to Chamba.

It was this alert that helped rescuers reach the spot within the next 30 minutes, said police and local residents.

Kangra SP Santosh Patial said that the impact of the accident was such that much of the vehicle was crushed. “We had to cut open the body of the bus to pull out the victims and survivors,” he said. “We have been able to account for 38 people on the bus. As a precaution, we are making sure no one fell out at the time of the accident.”

Principal of the school, Sunita Kumari, said the bus was carrying students of all standards - from nursery to class 10. “The bus had been inspected by all the authorities and had met all norms,” she said.

Social media complaints how come 67 old driver can drive the School bus.

Statistics say 12 persons die in road accidents in Himachal Pradesh every day According to a report from 2005 till 2015, Himachal Pradesh witnessed in total around 29,555 road accidents across the state.

Congress President Rahul gandhi, Prime Minister Modi offered their condolence via tweet.