8 charred to death as bus goes up in flames in Bihar’s Nalanda district
In a tragic incident, eight persons, including a child, were burnt alive inside a bus after the vehicle caught fire at Harnaut Bazaar in Nalanda district, 60 km from state capital Patna.
Police said the incident took place at around 5.45 pm when the bus, on way to Barbigha in Sheikhpura district from Patna, reached Harnaut, which falls in Nalanda, the native district of chief minister Nitish Kumar.
DIG, central range, Rajesh Kumar confirmed the death of eight passengers but said possibilities of the casualty figure going up existed as over a dozen passengers travelling in the ill-fated bus had sustained major burn injuries.
Expressing shock over the incident, chief minister Nitish Kumar announced an inquiry and ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of each of those killed in the tragedy, besides free medical treatment to those injured.
Locals, who were eyewitness to the incident, said the bus went up in flames within minutes in stationary position, stuck up as it was in a traffic jam on the road.
Reports said the driver of the bus had failed to notice the first sparks of the fire from the engine and noticed it only after the fire started spreading. It led to high casualty as passengers sitting inside the bus got little time to escape.
A malfunction in the engine is said to be the possible cause of the fire even as officials said the exact reason would only be ascertained after investigation. Poor maintenance of the vehicle and hot day temperature, which may have lighted up inflammables like petrol cannisters being carried inside the bus was not ruled out, officials added.
Police said the bus was gutted and the blaze could have been more devastating because there were LPG cylinders kept inside the ill-fated bus Baba Rath. “The tragedy could have been on a bigger scale had the LPG cylinders burst due to the blaze. It would have engulfed the vehicles adjacent to the bus in the jam and also spread to shops in the market area,” said a local police officer.
“The identities of the deceased have not been ascertained yet as bodies of the victims were completely charred. The driver and cleaner of the bus are absconding. We are trying to identify the owner of the bus and action would be taken against him,” said the DIG.
Till late evening, senior officials of the Nalanda district administration were busy in rescue operations and attending to medical aid of injured passengers admitted to nearby hospitals at Harnaut, even as locals blocked the Patna-Nalanda main road for hours, agitated over the alleged delay in arrival of the fire tenders. The fire was doused after two hours of firefighting and bodies were extricated only after 7 pm. Nalanda DM Thiyagrajan S M , Nalanda SP Kumar Ashish and local MLA Hari Narayan Singh were camping at the spot.
The Nalanda DM said traces of carbide have also been found from the gutted bus raising suspicion that the volatile compound could have triggered the fire due to the heat inside the bus.
This is the first such incident of a heavy passenger vehicle turning into an inferno in recent years in Bihar raising questions about the safety of passengers and maintenance of private carriers, which ply on different routes inside the state flouting norms of seating and booking cargo.