At least 44 people were killed yesterday when their bus was engulfed in flames after crashing on a highway in southern India, police said.
The tragedy happened after the bus smashed into a central reservation on a highway between the cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad, piercing the fuel tank, local police spokesman Venkateshwarlu said.
“The number of dead, which includes children, is 44,” said Venkateshwarlu, who uses only one name.
Out of 49 people on the bus, five, including the driver and the bus cleaner, broke windows and escaped before the flames engulfed the vehicle, killing the rest, police said.
“The driver and the cleaner tried to run, but the police caught them and they are now in our custody for questioning,” said Venkateshwarlu, adding that the three other survivors had been admitted to a local hospital.
Media reports said that most of the passengers were asleep when the bus burst into flames about 140km from Hyderabad, leaving them no time to scramble to safety.
Many of the victims were charred beyond recognition.
About 140,000 people died in road accidents in India last year, according to the government’s National Crime Records Bureau, which works out at 15 an hour.
Bad roads, speeding vehicles and poor driving are among the contributing factors, while bus crashes with a double-digit death toll are far from rare.
In May, at least 33 people died when an overcrowded bus skidded off a road into a fast-flowing river in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh. At least 30 were killed earlier this month in the northeastern state of Assam when a heavy goods truck careered onto the wrong side of the road and smashed head-on into two packed vehicles.
The WHO’s global status report on road safety found that 8 percent of India’s road user deaths were bus drivers or passengers, while 32 percent were riders of motorbikes or three-wheelers.
Meanwhile, a crude bomb exploded as people waited at a central bus stop in northeast India yesterday morning, killing two people a day after another blast at a market in the same city, police said.
No one has claimed responsibility for either attack in Manipur’s capital Imphal.
Authorities are searching for clues and suspects, but so far have no leads, police Superintendent Jayanta Singh said.
At least 17 separatist groups are active in Manipur and often stage hit-and-run attacks. The rebels claim the local population is ignored by the federal government in New Delhi. Most locals are ethnically closer to groups in Myanmar and China than to the rest of India.