A passenger bus rolled backward and then slipped off a thin road in Nepal's mountainous region. At least 85 passengers were sitting inside the bus and on its roof.

Nepalese army personnel assist a victim of a bus accident after being airlifted from Birtadeurali in Kavre to Kathmandu on August 15, 2016.
Nepalese army personnel assist a victim of a bus accident after being airlifted from Birtadeurali in Kavre to Kathmandu on August 15, 2016.

At least 33 people were killed and 28 others injured when a passenger bus slipped off a narrow mountain road in central Nepal.

The bus was heading from Kathmandu to Kartike Deurali, a village in Kavrepalanchok District in the Bagmati Zone of central Nepal.

Kavre, about 40 kilometres east of the capital, was among the worst hit areas by an earthquake, which killed nearly 9,000 people in the country last year.

The road - little more than a trail - was only wide enough for one vehicle to pass at a time and was slippery because of continuous rain.

People inspect the area where an overcrowded passenger bus veered off at Birtadeurali in Kavre district in Nepal on August 15, 2016. Image: Anadolu Ajansi
People inspect the area where an overcrowded passenger bus veered off at Birtadeurali in Kavre district in Nepal on August 15, 2016. Image: Anadolu Ajansi

Passengers were travelling to their home villages in Nepal to receive their first government payments for victims of last year's devastating earthquake.

Home Ministry official Chiranjivi Nepal said that 33 people were killed, but victims and relatives said many more may have died because the wreckage was scattered along the slope below the road making some areas inaccessible.

"The bus stalled while climbing the hill and the driver tried to restart it, but the vehicle rolled backward and then slipped off the road," passenger Kopila Gautam said from a bed at the National Trauma Center in Kathmandu.

Gautam said about 85 passengers were sitting inside the bus and also on its roof.

It was also packed with bags of rice, lentils, flour and other supplies being taken to villages.

A victim of a bus accident lies on a hospital bed after being airlifted from Birtadeurali in Kavre toKathmandu, Nepal on August 15, 2016. Image: Reuters
A victim of a bus accident lies on a hospital bed after being airlifted from Birtadeurali in Kavre toKathmandu, Nepal on August 15, 2016. Image: Reuters

She said she and other survivors struggled to climb back up to the road.

Pustak Guatam, a villager who reached the site about an hour after the accident to rescue his nephew, said bodies were scattered over a large area.

"It appeared that the bodies were ejected as the bus rolled down the slope, so I am sure more bodies will be found," Gautam said.

Mohan Giri, another villager who rushed to the hospital after hearing about the accident, said the bus was unusually crowded because many people were heading from Kathmandu to their villages to receive the first government grants for earthquake victims.

Family members of passengers of a bus that crashed in a mountain highway, look at a list of survivors airlifted for treatment at a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal on August 15, 2016. Image: AP
Family members of passengers of a bus that crashed in a mountain highway, look at a list of survivors airlifted for treatment at a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal on August 15, 2016. Image: AP

The accident occurred near Khare Khola, about 80 kilometres east of the capital.

Officials said the bus plunged off the road and rolled down about 500 feet.

Army and police personnel were searching the area for bodies.

"Rescue workers are still recovering bodies but rain is making their work difficult. We cannot ascertain the final toll right now," Bhim Kanta Sharma, the deputy district chief of Kavre said.

Nepalese army personnel assist a victim of a bus accident after being airlifted from Birtadeurali in Kavre to Kathmandu, Nepal on August 15, 2016. Image: Reuters.
Nepalese army personnel assist a victim of a bus accident after being airlifted from Birtadeurali in Kavre to Kathmandu, Nepal on August 15, 2016. Image: Reuters.

He said that an army helicopter had airlifted 26 of the injured to Kathmandu for treatment and another 13 were taken to hospital by ambulance.

Nepal's mountainous terrain, extreme weather and poorly maintained roads and vehicles often make for treacherous travel conditions. Many of the bus accidents in the country happen during the monsoon season, which begins in June and ends in September.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies