The landslide hit in the morning local time, leaving a bus and several other vehicles trapped on the mountainside highway.
Photos from the scene show rescue workers navigating crushed vehicle parts, flipped cars and scattered debris, with portions of the highway blocked completely by loose earth fallen from the mountain above.
Search and rescue teams from India’s National Disaster Response Force and other emergency agencies were immediately deployed to the site, with operations continuing overnight. More than 200 personnel continued to work along the stretch of National Highway 5, which connects northern India to the border with China, according to Reuters.
So far, 14 people have been rescued, said the Indo-Tibetan Border Police on Wednesday evening.
Earlier that day, Abid Hussain Sadiq, a senior official of Kinnaur district, said up to 40 people may be trapped under the rubble. “We are trying to recover a vehicle from under the debris,” he added.
“The debris fell from quite high up,” local police chief Saju Ram Rana told Reuters, adding that heavy machinery was being brought in to clear the area.
“The landslide tragedy at Kinnaur is very saddening,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday evening. “In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. May the injured recover at the earliest.”
In the past month, India has recorded dozen of deaths due to landslides triggered by heavy rainfall. In July, at least 31 people died in two landslides in Mumbai.
At least 10 dead and dozens trapped after landslide hits highway in northern India