"We heard a loud noise from the side of the incident. Out of curiosity, we rushed in and that's where we found the bus lying upside down with several students inside it,” a woman, who witnessed the school bus accident on Tongjei Maril Road at Longsai village in Noney district, Manipur, told the Imphal Free Press.
As many as nine people died and over 30 others injured as the bus carrying mostly girl students of Yairipok Thambalnu Higher Secondary School on an annual study tour to Khoupum fell off a cliff at Noney on Wednesday. Five students died on the spot.
"The villagers and the passengers from the second bus gather to help the passengers involved in the accident. We were shocked to witness such an incident," the woman recounted.
The accident took place around 11.10 am at Longsai Part-3 (Tubung) under Khoupum Police Station in Noney district on Wednesday. While approaching Longsai Part III, the steering wheel of the bus reportedly failed, causing it to slide down and fall from a height of around 35 feet. The bus turned upside down when it hit the ground.
"Seeing all the students, not one but many lying there crying and crawling for help, it was not a sight that we ever want to witness again," she added.
Two others, a teacher and warden succumbed to their injuries at Bishnupur District Hospital, which is located 25 km from the crash site.
The villagers say they have witnessed many accidents in the same spot for years. Recently, a truck met with an accident, leaving the driver dead. A bolero from the same village also met with an accident recently.
Another villager revealed that the place is an accident-prone zone and this is the third road mishap in December. Lives were lost in all the three incidents, the villager said.
“This is not the first time. There have been many instances of road mishaps at the same place. But the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye to it,” the villager added.
While the place where the accident occurred is a sharp curve, there was no guard rail to prevent vehicles from going off the cliff.
“The issue is the sharp corner… the chief minister himself is also aware about the sharp corner,” Works Minister Govindas Konthoujam said, as chief of Longsai village, Kabidon Gonmei, blamed the state government for the tragedy, saying the road stretch is accident prone as the “government failed to repair the road despite several complaints made”.
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