Residents scramble down gorge to help in rescue.
New Delhi CNN  — 

At least 23 schoolchildren were among those killed Monday in northern India after their bus skidded off the road and plunged about 300 feet, authorities said.

The bus was ferrying the children home about 4 p.m. in the Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, according to Santosh Patial, superintendent of police.

The bodies of 27 people have been recovered, including two staff members, a bus driver and another woman. Search and rescue operations are over and 11 children were taken to two hospitals. Two of them were in critical condition.

The ages of the schoolchildren who died were between 4 and 12 years old, said Patial.

The bus, which belonged to a private school, was carrying about 34 children, officials said.

In a tweet, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said, “Extremely saddened to learn about the tragic school bus accident in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. Thoughts and prayers with the bereaved families and with those injured.”

The chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, Jairam Thakur, expressed his condolences to the families of the students and assured them of a thorough investigation into the incident.

The state government said families of the deceased each will receive 5 lakh Indian rupees ($7,700 US).

Bus accidents are a regular occurrence in India due to poor infrastructure and lax safety measures. In 2017, 15 students died after their school bus collided with a truck.