Twenty-seven children were among 30 killed when a school bus ferrying them back home plunged into a deep gorge near village Gurchal on the Nurpur-Chamba highway, about 100 km from the district headquarters at Dharamsala.
The deceased children were students of Ram Singh Pathania Memorial School, police said.
Thirty people, including 27 children, were killed, Himachal Pradesh Transport Minister Govind Singh Thakur said.
School bus driver, 67-year-old Madan Lal, and two women teachers also died in the accident, Kangra SP Santosh Patial said.
Local BJP MLA, Rakesh Pathania, who was on the spot, said 27 bodies were recovered while two more had been spotted.
At least 13 seriously injured people were rushed to a hospital in Pathankot where one of them succumbed to injuries, an official said. The condition of the other injured was also critical, he said.
The bus was carrying 40-45 people and most of those killed were students of elementary classes, aged below 10.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur announced an immediate relief of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of each deceased.
A magisterial probe was ordered and preliminary enquiries suggested that the accident occurred as the driver lost control of the bus which veered off the road and fell into a deep gorge, an official said.
A pall of gloom descended in the area as wailing parents rushed to the spot. Food and Supplies Minister Krishan Kapoor was among the senior state functionaries at the accident site to supervise rescue operations.
The bodies were extricated from the rubble with the assistance of local youths.
Governor Acharya Devvrat, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Union minister J P Nadda and others expressed shock over the tragedy. —PTI