Onlookers stand next to a burnt bus after an accident at Mahabubnagar district in Andhra Pradesh yesterday.
Hyderabad: As many as 45 passengers were burnt to death and five others injured early yesterday when an air-conditioned bus caught fire in Andhra Pradesh’s Mahabubnagar district, police said.
The private bus, proceeding to Hyderabad from Bangalore, caught fire after hitting a culvert around 5.20am near Palem in Kottakota mandal, about 150km from here. Besides the driver and cleaner, only five passengers escaped the horrific disaster. The injured passengers were shifted to a hospital in Hyderabad. Police are questioning the driver and cleaner.
Flames engulfed the bus in no time as its diesel tank burst after hitting the culvert, Mahabubnagar superintendent of police Nagendra Kumar said, quoting witnesses. The passengers were asleep when the accident took place, leaving no time for them to escape. The victims were charred beyond recognition.
According to a survivor, some people broke the windows to jump out. But others were not lucky. He said the door was also locked, leaving no escape route for most passengers.
Four bodies were handed over to their relatives after they were identified by wrist watch, rings and other ornaments on them. The remaining bodies were shifted to the Osmania Hospital in Hyderabad. Officials said they would be identified with the help of DNA test. Police have asked relatives of the victims to approach the Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory in Hyderabad to give their DNA samples.
Initially, there was confusion on the number of passengers in the bus, which left Bangalore at 10pm on Tuesday and was scheduled to reach Hyderabad at 6.30am.
Transport Minister Botsa Satyanarayana said that 45 people were killed. He said the Volvo bus, belonging to Jabbar Travels, had a capacity for 43 passengers but was carrying 50 people.
Preliminary investigation by police revealed that speeding caused the accident. Police booked a case against Jabbar Travels and detained its manager.
Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at the scene as rescue workers found the body of a child on a mother’s lap. Both were charred. They were identified as Jabeen Fatima and her daughter, Uzma, six. Jabeen’s husband Azmatullah also died.
The dead included four women and a child. Majority of the victims were in their 20s and 30s. They included software professionals, some of whom were coming home to celebrate Diwali with their family members.
Mahabubnagar district collector M Girija Shankar said five passengers were shifted to the DRDO Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad. The condition of one of them is stated to be critical.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy and other political leaders of Andhra Pradesh expressed shock and anguish over the deaths. IANS