AT least 52 people are dead and 45 injured after a heavily overloaded bus plunged into a gorge in northern India.
The bus, which was carrying over 100 passengers - many of them on the roof - veered off the road in a sparsely populated and hilly area of the state of Himachal Pradesh on Saturday.
District deputy police commissioner Sunil Chaudhary says he fears the death toll could rise because at least a dozen of the injured are critical.
There were anguished scenes as families came to claim the bodies of the victims. Many had boarded the 42-seater when their own bus broke down, locals said.
Some of the bodies were taken away by their families for cremation while the state government brought in four truckloads of wood to cremate others at the site.
The cause was not immediately known but some witnesses said the driver lost control of the vehicle on a sharp bend.
The accident happened in the morning near Chamba town, about 190 kilometres from the state capital Shimla. The area's roads are treacherous and known for zig-zag turns.
Villagers were the first to reach the accident site and frantically struggled to pull survivors from the twisted wreckage. Later, emergency crews arrived, covering the dead in white sheets.
The bus had been on its way to Chamba from Dulera when it flew off the road. Thirty-nine people were killed instantly while the others died on the way to hospital, Chaudhary said.
It was the second major bus tragedy in a week in a country where road accidents with dozens dead at a time are common.
On Wednesday, 31 people were killed when their bus tumbled into a gorge in Meghalaya state, in India's remote northeast.