Seven passengers were burnt to death and 40 injured early on Thursday when a luxury bus hit a bridge railing and caught fire near a Karnataka town, a police official said.
The horrific accident took place near Haveri town, about 330 km from here in northern Karnataka.
The incident came close on the heels of the October 30 Andhra Pradesh accident in which 45 passengers were burnt to death in a similar private-run luxury bus fire at Mahbubnagar in Andhra Pradesh.
Thursday's accident “took place around 2.45am when the luxury bus of Volvo from Bangalore to Mumbai hit the railing of a bridge on National Highway 4 (NH 4) at high speed and caught fire as its fuel tank burst,” Haveri superintendent of police M Shashi Kumar said.
As many as 43 men and six women were onboard the ill-fated bus operated by the city-based Nationals Travels.
The bus left for Mumbai late Wednesday from the city centre and crossed a hamlet Kunimallahalli, 15 km from Haveri, when it caught fire.
“We are yet to identify the...victims as their bodies are fully burnt. Six of the injured have been rushed to a state-run hospital at Hubli, as their condition is critical due to severe burns,” Kumar said. Hubli is around 50 km from Haveri.
“The bus driver is absconding while its cleaner is injured and is in a hospital at Haveri,” Kumar added.
The bus operator, meanwhile, said he was not able to get in touch with the driver after the incident. “He (the driver) was trained and it doesn’t appear to be his fault, though we are waiting for more details,” he said on being asked whether the accident happened because of the driver’s fault.
Most of the passengers were asleep when the fire broke out and the flames started leaping up from beneath.
The survivors managed to escape by shattering the emergency exit window and jumping from the burning bus.
State transport minister Ramalinga Reddy rushed to the spot.
“Overspeeding appears to be the cause of the accident... We are ordering a probe to ascertain the reason though the driver could be at fault for driving so recklessly,” Reddy told reporters.
(Karnataka bus accident helpline no: 08375237368, 08375232143)