(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –At least 55 people died and 24 others were injured when a crowded bus overturned and plunged into a gorge in the Jagtiyal district of Telangana, 190 kilometres north of Hyderabad on Tuesday morning.
The bus was part of the state-owned Telangana Road Transport Corporation’s fleet.
Revenue divisional officer Narendra said the accident occurred as the bus was coming down from a hilltop temple at Kondagattu. The driver lost control while negotiating a sharp turn and crossing a speed breaker.
“An investigation has been ordered into the cause of the accident,” he said.
Among the deceased were 25 women and seven children. Officials said 25 people died on the spot while others succumbed at the Jagatiyal government hospital.
Seven critically injured were shifted to hospitals in Hyderabad and Karimnagar while 17 were being treated at a local hospital.
The bus was travelling from Shanivarpet, to Jagatiyal, via Kondagattu.
As there was a huge rush of pilgrims at the Hanuman temple atop the hill and fewer buses available more than 70 passengers boarded the bus against the capacity of 40.
According to police the accident occurred at around 11.30am, as the bus was about to come out of the challenging Ghat section of the road.
“The bus was very close to the highway, and was crossing over the last speed breaker, when the driver lost control and the bus turned on one side, before falling into the gorge,” one of the survivors said.
District Superintendent of Police Sindhu Sharma, who rushed with officers and emergency services workers for the rescue operation, said the real cause of the accident will be known only after thorough probe.
But witnesses and local people said a combination of factors including the driver’s error and negligence by the administration led to the tragedy.
They said the Ghat Road was not the main route between the Kondagutta and Jagatiyal and there was an alternate bypass road.
“The Ghat Road was closed for buses and other heavy vehicles after 20 people died in an earlier accident involving a lorry,” another local person said. “But the road was again opened for buses three months ago as the bypass road was 5km longer”.
He other reason was the driver Srinivas was new to the route and failed to apply the brakes while crossing the speed breaker which did not have any mark. When the bus hit the speed breaker with full speed some of the passengers staking close to him fell on the driver and he lost control over the bus veering sharply on one side.
Most of the passengers died under the weight of others. The driver also died.
As soon as the bus fell into gorge the other passer-by and the local people rushed to rescue the injured.
The police and the revenue department officials joined the efforts later on.
With the heaps of dead body at the scene of accident there were hearty rending scenes at the site of the accident as a large umber of people crowded the place. The screams and cries of the near and dear ones of the dead echoed in Jagatiyal hospital where all the bodies were shifted later.
Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao expressed deep shock and grief over the loss of life and announced payouts of Rs500,000 (Dh25,247) per deceased person to relatives of the victims.
In a message, the CM expressed deep condolences on the loss of lives and injuries to others.
He further directed the officials concerned to provide immediate medical assistance to the injured.