40 die as bus catches fire in Andhra

Hyderabad, Oct 30 (IANS) As many as 40 passengers were burnt alive early Wednesday when a bus caught fire in Andhra Pradesh's Mahabubnagar district, police said.

A private bus coming to Hyderabad from Bangalore caught fire after hitting a culvert around 5.20 a.m. near Palem in Kottakota mandal of Mahabubnagar district, about 150 km from here.

Seven passengers, including the driver and a cleaner, managed to escape. They were shifted to a hospital.

Flames engulfed the bus within no time as the diesel tanker burst after hitting the culvert, a police official said quoting eye witnesses.

There was no clarity yet on the exact number of passengers onboard the ill-fated bus. The police said 40 people were killed and seven were injured, but according to driver, the Volvo air-conditioned bus, belonging to Jabbar Travels, was carrying 49 passengers.

Superintendent of Police Nagendra Kumar, who visited the spot, said a list of only 29 passengers was received from the private bus operator. Other passengers are believed have boarded the bus at Hindupur and Anantapur.

The passengers were asleep when the accident took place, leaving no time for them to escape. The victims were charred beyond recognition.

People from nearby village said the bus was reduced to ashes within few minutes.

Policemen with the help of forensic experts were seen retrieving charred remains of the passengers and keeping them under a tent erected near the scene on Bangalore-Hyderabad national highway. The experts will conduct DNA test to identity the bodies.

Mahabubnagar District Collector M.Girija Shankar said five passengers were shifted to DRDO Hospital in Hyderabad.

The bus left Bangalore at 10 p.m. Tuesday and was scheduled to reach Hyderabad at 6.30 a.m.

Anxious relatives of some of the passengers rushed to Jabbar Travels office here for information. However, the private operator did not have the list of passengers and other details.

Mahabubnagar district police have opened a helpline to provide information. Following are the helpline numbers: 9494600100, 08542-245927, 245930, 245932.

Chief Minister N.Kiran Kumar Reddy Wednesday ordered probe. He directed the district collector and superintendent of police to conduct a thorough investigation and submit a report.

Kiran Reddy expressed his shock and anguish and told officials to provide all the help to the injured and the families of the victims.

Transport Minister Botsa Satyanarayana said compensation would be paid to the families of the victims.

Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N.Chandrababu Naidu and leaders of other political parties have also expressed shock over the accident and conveyed their sympathies to the kin of the victims.

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