As many as 45 passengers were burnt to death and five others injured on Wednesday morning when an air-conditioned bus caught fire in Andhra Pradesh’s Mehabubnagar district.
The private bus, proceeding to Hyderabad from Bangalore, caught fire after hitting a culvert around 5.20 am near Palem in Kottakota mandal.
Besides the driver and cleaner, only five passengers escaped the horrific disaster. The injured passengers were shifted to a hospital. The driver and cleaner, who escaped unhurt, are being questioned by the police.
Flames engulfed the bus in no time as the diesel tank burst after hitting the culvert, Mahabubnagar Superintendent of Police Nagendra Kumar said.
Transport Minister Botsa Satyanarayana told reporters in Hyderabad 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.
No way out
The passengers were asleep when the accident took place, leaving no time for them to escape. The victims were charred beyond recognition.
People from a nearby village said the bus was reduced to ashes within minutes. The first ambulance reached nearly anhour later.
According to one of the survivors, 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.
Preliminary investigations by the police revealed that speeding caused the accident. The transport minister said there was no speed limit for Volvo buses.
Botsa said the bus was registered in Anantapur district in the name of Diwakar Road Lines and Jabbar Travels had taken it on lease.
Police detained the manager of Jabbar Travels in Hyderabad and took him to Mahabubnagar for questioning.
Nagendra Kumar said a list of only 29 passengers was received from the private bus operator. Other passengers are believed to have boarded the bus at Hindupur and Anantapur.
The bus left Bangalore at 10 pm on Tuesday and was scheduled to reach Hyderabad at 6.30 am.
Policemen and forensic experts retrieved the charred remains of the passengers and are keeping them under a tent put up near the scene on the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway.
The forensic experts, from Hyderabad, will conduct DNA tests to identity the bodies.
Police have identified three victims. Mahabubnagar District Collector M Girija Shankar said five passengers were shifted to the DRDO Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad.
Mahabubnagar district police in Andhra Pradesh have opened a helpline to provide information about the mishap in which 40 passengers of a private bus coming to Hyderabad from Bangalore were killed after the bus caught fire on Wednesday morning.
The helpline numbers are: 9494600100, 08542-245927, 245930, 245932.
Number of people who died in India in road accidents in 2012