At least 25 people were killed, and 11 were critically injured, when a bus carrying artists from a local theatre troupe fell into a gorge around 15 km from the Deogarh town of Odisha on Sunday evening, police said.

The bus was carrying around 40 members of the troupe, including women and children. The vehicle was returning to Remta in Bargarh district from Deogarh, when it plunged more than 250 feet into the hilly Tilaebani Gaelo ghat, police officials said.

All victims belonged to Bharati Gananatya, a local theatre group from Bargarh district, reports The Hindu.

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"Twenty-five bodies have so far been been recovered and 11 injured persons, who are in a critical condition, rescued from the mishap site," Deogarh Superintendent of Police Sarah Sharma said.

She said rescue operation was launched by fire brigade and police personnel and some of the injured persons were rushed to Deogarh hospital for treatment.

The death toll may rise as many of the injured were in critical condition, reports Times Of India.

Generators were pressed into service to facilitate rescue operations in the dark, while senior police and administrative officials have also rushed to the spot to supervise the operations, Sharma said.

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Difficult hilly terrain, dense forest cover and low visibility were hampering rescue operations at the mishap site, the SP said.

The police reportedly had to walk two km to reach the mishap site, reports The Hindu.

The victims are yet to be identified. Meanwhile, the district administration has issued two helpline numbers, reports NDTV.

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik expressed grief over the incident and directed officials to hasten rescue operations.

(With inputs from PTI)

(Feature image source: Twitter | @otvnews)