Two Himachal roadway buses were hit by a massive landslide triggered by a cloudburst on the Mandi-Pathankot National Highway, leaving 17 passengers dead.

Himachal Transport minister G S Bali said the toll could climb to 50 in the incident which took place last night.

One of the buses was going from Manali to Katra and another from Manali to Chamba. The buses had halted for a tea break at Kotrupi in the night when the tragedy struck, said special secretary (Disaster) D D Sharma.

The landslide swept away the road and the buses for almost 800 metres down into a gorge and there was no trace of one of the buses which was completely buried under the debris so far

The number of passengers in the buses could be between 30 and 40 as the number of passengers who boarded the bus en route was not known. He said immediately after receiving the information the ADM was rushed to the spot.

The Army and NDRF teams have reached the spot and started rescue operation along with the police, administration and local people. The IG central range and Deputy Commissioner and SP are on the spot, he added

Director General of Police Somesh Goyal said that as per preliminary information there were eight passengers in the Manali-Katra Volvo bus while 47 passengers were travelling in the other bus

Authorities have been directed to arrange for on the spot postmortem, he added. CM Virbhadra Singh visited the spot

Prime Minister Modi took to Twitter to offer condolences to the families of the deceased.

This is the third such incident in Himachal.

Earlier 45 bus passengers were buried in a landslide near Matiyana in Shimla district in 1988 and 42 passengers were buried in another mishap at Luggar Hati in Kullu district in 1994.