Overcrowded bus plunges into India gorge, killing 55

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NEW DELHI — An overcrowded bus plunged into a gorge in southern India on Tuesday, killing at least 55 people and injuring several more, in one of the worst such accidents this year, authorities said.

The bus, part of the state-run network in Telangana, was returning from a hilltop temple in the district of Jagtial, about 190 km from Hyderabad, the state capital, a district official said.

“The driver lost control and the bus skidded off the road and fell into the valley,” a top district official, G. Narendhar, said. “The majority of the passengers have suffered severe injuries.”

Media cited brake failure as the possible reason for the tragedy, but Narendhar said that needed to be investigated, adding that the 94 people on board the bus, including its driver and conductor, had exceeded the legal limit of 52.

“The bus accident ... is shocking beyond words,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on social network Twitter. “Anguished by the loss of lives.”

Broken glass, slippers and luggage lay scattered next to lifeless bodies that were lined up at the scene, as locals pulled out survivors from the mangled vehicle.

They then carried them uphill to get medical attention.

Some rescuers climbed onto the bus and others tried to reach the injured through the front portion which was completely smashed.

“More than half of those killed were women, and there were at least three children,” local official G. Narendhar said.

Broadcaster NDTV quoted witnesses as saying the driver was speeding and lost control of the vehicle. The Hindu daily said it careened off the road on a sharp corner.

“We have pulled out the bodies and we are taking them to the hospital for autopsy,” B. Rajesham, another official, said.

An investigation has been ordered.

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao expressed shock and announced 500,000 rupees ($7,000) each for the families of the deceased.

Tuesday is considered an auspicious day by Hindus, and there was a heavy rush of devotees to the temple.

On July 28 a bus carrying university workers plunged off a mountain road into a valley in western India, killing 33 people.

That vehicle was taking staff from the Dapoli Agriculture University to a popular hill station in the state of Maharashtra for a picnic.

The same month 48 people were killed and many others badly injured in the north of the country when an overcrowded bus hurtled into a gorge in the Himalayan foothills.

India has the world’s deadliest roads, with almost 150,000 people killed in accidents in 2016, the latest government data shows, up 3.2 percent from a year earlier. — Agencies


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