A massive landslide buried two Himachal Pradesh roadways buses, killing at least 48 people and injuring several others at Kotpuri near Padhar on the Mandi Pathankot national highway.
The toll could rise further as over 50 passengers were travelling in the two buses hit by the landslide, which was triggered by a cloud burst, they said.
Some other vehicles also hit by landslides said officials.
“Forty-six bodies have been recovered, and of these 23 have been identified,” an official said.
Among the bodies recovered were those of the driver and the conductor of Chamba depot bus Chandan Sharma and Satpal.
Rescue operations were suspended late evening as there were apprehensions of more landslides, he said.
The rescue work would resume on Monday.
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force, the Army and the police rushed to the spot and heavy earth-moving machinery was deployed at the gorge where the two buses lay buried under a heap of debris.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh visited the spot.
He said that eight passengers were travelling in the Manali-Katra Volvo bus.
Out of 8 passengers 3 died and 5 were taken to the hospital in Mandi.
The chief minister said the state government would bear medical expenses of the injured.
Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur, Transport Minister GS Bali and Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Anil Sharma also reached the spot.
Thakur announced financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased, while Bali announced that Rs 1 lakh would be given to each bereaved family by the HRTC.
The buses had halted for a tea break in the intervening night between Saturday and Sunday at Kotrupi when the tragedy struck.
The highway was closed and hundreds of vehicles were stranded on both sides, officials said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condoled the deaths.
This is the third such major incident in Himachal Pradesh since 1988. Earlier 45 bus passengers were buried in a landslide near Matiyana in Shimla district in 1988 while 42 passengers were buried in an incident at Luggar Hati in Kullu district in 1994.