Nine people were charred to death and eight more seriously injured when a bus caught fire near Amethi in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday.
The incident occurred on Tuesday morning when the bus from the state-run transport utility was going from Faizabad to Allahabad.
A total of 42 people were in the bus. Some managed to escape by smashing the windows while others got out through an emergency exit.
Efforts were launched to identify the dead, police officials said. The injured were admitted to a hospital in Sultanpur district, located near Amethi, the parliamentary constituency of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav expressed grief over the incident and announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh would be paid to the families of the dead. Rs 1 lakh will be paid to the seriously injured and Rs 50,000 to those who sustained minor wounds.
“It was a tragic incident. So far, the death of nine passengers has been reported,” Mukesh Meshram, managing director of the Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC), told Hindustan Times.
Meshram said a team was investigating the incident to ascertain the cause of the fire and would submit its report on Tuesday evening.
Sources in the UPSRTC said the team had found two leads at the accident site. The investigations suggested that a gas cylinder kept near the driver’s cabin could have caused the fire. The second lead indicated the blaze might have been triggered by a short circuit in the engine, the sources said.
A witness said he heard a loud bang and flames soon engulfed the bus. “It was a loud noise and within seconds, flames were spotted coming out of the bus,” a local resident said.
“Though the final report is awaited, the service manager of Faizabad region, whose responsibility was to ensure the fitness of buses on a daily basis, has been suspended,” he said. The driver of the bus, Anil Singh, and its conductor, Dharmendra Shrivastav, were absconding, he added.
Strict action will be taken against erring officers and free treatment will be provided to the injured passengers, Meshram said.