SAGAR/BHOPAL: As many as 21 persons were burnt to death and over a dozen injured when a bus fell off a culvert and caught fire in Panna district of Madhya Pradesh, about 410 km from the state capital, on Monday afternoon.
Though the district administration had initially issued an official press note claiming that the death toll stood at 50, Panna superintendent of police IP Arjaria later clarified that 21 persons had died and 13 injured in the incident.
While two of them have been admitted to the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital at Rewa in a critical condition, the others are being treated at the district hospital in Panna.
The incident took place at Madla Ghati near Pandav Fall on National Highway-75. According to police, the bus – which belonged to a travel agency – was plying from Chhatarpur to Satna. There were about 40 passengers aboard the bus.
Mandla police station in-charge ML Rawat said the bus driver lost control over the bus after it ran into a pothole. The vehicle then skidded off the road, fell into a roadside ditch and caught fire.
While a few passengers managed to scamper to safety and inform the local police, as many as 21 were burnt to death. Water tankers were rushed to the spot immediately, but it was too late.
Senior police officers and district administration officials arrived at the scene soon after they were informed about the incident.
"As many as 21 charred bodies have been taken out. A case has been registered, and an investigation is on," said superintendent of police (SP) IP Arjaria.
Arvind Singh Bundla, a passenger who escaped with minor injuries, said that the driver was speeding when the incident occurred.
"He was driving at a very high speed, and lost control over the bus. I escaped by breaking a window pane. Then I went to a nearby police post and informed them," Bundla, a resident of Panna, said.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan expressed shock over the incident and directed a magisterial inquiry into the incident. He also announced compensation of `12 lakh for the kin of the deceased; `50,000 for those critically injured; and `25,000 for those with minor injuries.
He also asked the district administration to ensure free treatment for the injured persons. (With inputs from Anupam Pateria, Sagar)