Shimla    -     At least 44 people were killed when a bus in India’s mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh plunged into a gorge on Thursday, officials said.

Another 28 were undergoing treatment, many of them for critical injuries, after the private, overcrowded vehicle veered off the road and fell into a 150-metre gorge in Kullu district of the northern Himalayan state.

Officials had given an initial toll of at least 25 dead but later said 19 others succumbed to injuries. Kullu police chief Shalini Agnihotri told a private news agency that the injured were taken to the nearest hospitals where they died during treatment. Many of the victims were women and children coming back from work and school, she said.

The bus was carrying more than 60 passengers, a large number of them on the roof, when it lost control at a sharp curve and rolled down the steep mountain before perching on the edge of a stream.

Pictures from the scene showed the mangled remains of the colourful bus on the rocky edge of the water as volunteers made human chains to help survivors cross it.

Agnihotri said an investigation has been opened to determine the cause of the crash. The Himalayan state is prone to deadly accidents owing to its rugged terrain, with speeding and overcrowding adding to the safety hazards.

At least 15 people were killed in April after their bus fell into a gorge in a nearby district. In India an average of 150,000 people die in road accidents each year.

A separate crash on Thursday left three children dead and four feared drowned after their van plunged into a canal in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, officials said. Another 22 people either swam to safety or were rescued by locals.

11.7 mln people in Horn of Africa face food insecurity: UN

NAIROBI (Xinhua): A severe drought in the Horn of Africa has left about 11.7 million people in food insecurity, a United Nations report said Friday.

The report, by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said more than 785,000 children are severely malnourished in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda due to a dry spell in the region.

“Drought also exacerbates the risk of infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, diarrhea, acute respiratory infections and measles,” OCHA said in the report.

The UN agency said many of the areas impacted by drought across the region have also been affected by internal violence and conflict.

Escalating food insecurity is also likely to further heighten risks for women and girls, who will have to travel longer distances to reach clean water and food.

OCHA warned that the number of food insecure people is expected to rise in the months ahead as a result of consecutive poor seasons that have destroyed livelihoods and eroded the ability of communities to cope with.

According to the UN, rainfall between March and mid-May was less than 50 percent of the annual average across the Horn of Africa.