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Forty-five people were killed after a private bus carrying them rammed into a culvert and its fuel tank caught fire in Mahabubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh early Wednesday morning.
The Jabbar Travels’ air-conditioned Volvo bus began its journey at 11pm on Tuesday from Kalasipalyam area in Bengaluru to Hyderabad and picked up 50 passengers along the way.
There were 52 people, including the driver and the cleaner, on board.
“Charred bodies of 45 persons have been retrieved from the bus,” said deputy inspector general (Hyderabad range) V Naveen Chand.
The accident occurred around 5.10am on National Highway-44 near Palem village in Mahabubnagar, around 140km from Hyderabad, police said.
Bus owner Shakeel Ahmed said seven people, including driver Feroze Khan and cleaner Ayyaz, escaped through a window but suffered burns. The injured are undergoing treatment at various hospitals, police said.
The other passengers were apparently asleep when the diesel tank exploded and were trapped inside the bus.
“Most of the passengers could not escape as the flames caught the plastic and cloth materials, especially the seats, and were charred to death,” Ahmed said.
The passengers in the bus were burnt beyond recognition, said Wanaparthy deputy superintendent of police Srinivas Reddy.
“It appears that the bus was travelling at a high speed when its fuel tank hit the roadside culvert and caught fire. The entire bus has been gutted,” he said.
Initial reports said there were some software engineers among the deceased.
“The identification of the deceased will be done after conducting DNA tests and collecting blood samples of the relatives,” said Mahabubnagar district collector Girija Shankar.
“The mortal remains will be handed over the kin of the deceased after the DNA tests.”
A team of doctors from Gandhi Hospital and Osmania General Hospital and forensic experts from Hyderabad rushed to the spot to conduct post-mortem of the bodies.
Andhra Pradesh transport minister Botsa Satyanarayana told reporters in Hyderabad that the bus was overcrowded.
“The total capacity of the bus was 45 but there were 50 passengers on board. We will take action against the bus for overcrowding.”
The 2010-make bus has permit till 2016 and a fitness certificate valid till 2014. Jabbar Travels was running the bus on lease.
Police said the online booking list with the bus operators had names of 33 passengers and others may have boarded the bus later.
Karnataka transport minister Ramalinga Reddy has also asked police to find out the addresses and other details about the deceased passengers so that compensation can be announced for their families.
Bengaluru city police commissioner Raghavendra Auradkar too has directed officials to probe the accident and collect information regarding the victims.
The Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway is usually crowded with buses, both state-owned and private.