Updated May 20th, 2024 at 23:58 IST

Chhattisgarh: Vehicle Carrying Tendu Leaves Collectors Falls Into Valley, 19 dead

19 tribals including 18 women were killed and three others injured when a mini goods vehicle ferrying a group of tendu leaves collectors plunged into a valley

Vehicle carrying tendu leaves collectors falls into valley in Chhattisgarh | Image:PTI/representative
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Kawardha: As many as 19 tribals including 18 women were killed and three others injured when a mini goods vehicle ferrying a group of tendu leaves collectors plunged into a valley in Chhattisgarh's Kabirdham district on Monday afternoon, police told PTI.

As per preliminary information, a brake failure led to the tragedy, officials said.

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Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai announced a financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of each deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured.

The accident occurred around 1.45 pm on Banjari Ghat near Bahpani village under Kukdur police station limits, Kabirdham Superintendent of Police Abhishek Pallava said.

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The victims were returning home after plucking tendu leaves from a forest, he said.

When the vehicle, with 36 people onboard, was descending down Banjari Ghat (mountainous road), the driver shouted that brakes had failed, following which he and most of the male passengers jumped off, the official said.

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The vehicle veered off the road, tumbled down 40 feet and crashed onto the road at the bottom of the valley, he added.

On the other side of the road where the accident took place is a 200-feet deep gorge, Pallava said.

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After being alerted about the accident, teams of health personnel from nearby Kukdur and Pandariya and a police team rushed to the spot and launched a rescue operation, he said.

"Twelve women and a man were killed on the spot. Five more women succumbed while being shifted to hospital," the SP said.

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The remaining four injured persons, including three women, were shifted to Kabirdham district hospital where one of the women succumbed, the SP said.

Senior district administration and police officials visited the accident spot.

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A case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder will be registered against the vehicle's owner and driver, the SP said.

The victims were natives of Semarha village, and for the last one week using the same vehicle for travelling to the place where they plucked tendu leaves (used for making 'beedis' or leaf-wrapped cigarettes) and back, he said.

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Deputy Chief Minister Vijay Sharma, who holds the Home portfolio, visited the Pandariya community health centre where 13 bodies were brought for post-mortem, and also the accident site. Autopsy of five bodies was performed at Kukdur health centre and of another at the district hospital.

Talking to reporters at Pandariya, Sharma termed the incident as "unfortunate" and said the state government will provide compensation to the kin of the victims as per the rules.

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"It is a very painful and unfortunate incident," he said.

Asked if the Banjari Ghat needed some safety measures, the Deputy CM said, "It is not a matter of negligence, it is an accident. I do not think there is a need to look for anybody's fault in this. But there is a need to focus on the fitness of such vehicles....If required, a probe will be conducted," he said.

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Expressing grief over the incident, Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai wrote on X, "In this hour of grief, the Chhattisgarh government stands with the families of the victims. We have decided to give an assistance of Rs 5 lakh to the families of each of the deceased and Rs 50 thousand to those injured. This assistance will be in addition to the ex-gratia provided by the administration and amount received from insurance.

"The administration has also been instructed to take extra precautions towards road safety. Every possible measure should be taken to prevent such accidents," Sai added.

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The CM instructed the district administration to provide best possible medical assistance to the injured.

President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives.

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"The news of the death of many people in a road accident in Kabirdham district of Chhattisgarh is very sad. I express my deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in this accident and wish speedy recovery to those injured," said the President in a message on X.

PM Modi described the incident as extremely painful.

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"The road accident that occurred in Kawardha, Chhattisgarh, is very painful. My condolences to those who lost their loved ones in this accident. I wish speedy recovery of the injured. Under the supervision of the state government, the local administration is engaged in providing all possible help to the victims," the PM said in his message. 

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Published May 20th, 2024 at 23:58 IST