Police say at least 30 people, including 27 children, died when a school bus in Himachal Pradesh crashes into a gorge.

Most of the students were aged between 10 and 12 years [AFP]
Most of the students were aged between 10 and 12 years [AFP]

At least 27 children, some as young as 10, have been killed in northern India when a school bus plunged into a deep ravine in the Himalayan foothills, according to police.

Three adults also died on Monday when the vehicle carrying young students home in Himachal Pradesh state skidded off a cliff and crashed into a gorge near Nurpur, about 325km from the state capital, Shimla.

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Twelve injured passengers were rushed to hospital, most in critical condition.

“The bus rolled into a 200 feet [60 metre] deep gorge, killing 27 schoolchildren, two teachers and the driver,” said Santosh Patial, a senior local police official.

“My first priority was to save lives. We will now investigate the reasons for the accident,” he told  AFP news agency from the scene.

Most of the students were aged between 10 and 12 years and hailed from a local school, added Patial.

Onlookers rushed to search the mangled, upturned yellow for survivors.

Images from the scene showed injured children being carried away bloodied and bruised, some on stretchers and others in the arms of bystanders.

The state government has announced 500,000 rupees ($7,700) in compensation for each victim’s family.

India has some of the world’s deadliest roads, with almost 150,000 people killed in accidents in 2015, the latest government data shows.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was anguished by the loss of lives in the latest incident.

“My prayers and solidarity with those who lost their near and dear ones in the accident,” he wrote on Twitter.