More than 30 passengers were charred to death when a state-run bus fell into a ditch and exploded after hitting a barricade in Karnataka’s Chitradurga district on Sunday, police said.
The victims included 15 women and 10 children. Twenty-eight others were injured as the fire spread quickly, trapping passengers and hindering rescue efforts.
The injured have been admitted to nearby hospitals.
The bus, carrying 64 passengers, was on its way to Bangalore from Surapur in Gulbarga district when the accident took place at Challakeri, 210 km from here.
Police suspect that the driver, who survived miraculously, might have dozed off and hit a barricade. The bus overturned and its diesel tank caught fire, engulfing the entire vehicle. The co-driver and conductor also survived the accident.
The driver claimed he lost control of the bus while trying to avoid a head-on collision with another vehicle, crashed into a cement railing and plunged into the ditch.
The police have registered a case against the driver and the North Eastern Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (NEKSRTC), which operates the bus.
State Transport Minister R. Ashok told reporters that according to preliminary reports, driver’s “negligence” could have caused the accident.
A probe is on to establish the cause of the mishap, he said.
Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa announced that Rs 1 lakh would be offered as compensation to the kin of each of the deceased.
“We will look into the matter and see what went wrong,” Yeddyurappa said, expressing shock and grief over the tragedy. NEKSRTC has also announced a compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh to the kin of each of those killed.
The police said nine bodies have been identified and they planned to conduct DNA tests on several others as they were charred beyond recognition.
Messages have been sent to the relatives of victims in Surapur in Gulbarga district from where the bus had begun its journey, police said.