44 killed in bus fire in S. India

NEW DELHI, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) — At least 44 persons were burnt to death Wednesday morning when a bus caught fire after its oil tank exploded in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, the police said.

The Volvo private bus was coming from Bangalore to Hyderabad when it caught fire at Kothakota in Mahbubnagar district, 140 km from the state capital Hyderabad. It hit a road divider at 05:00 a. m. local time, the police said.

All the bodies were charred beyond recognition and the bus was reduced to scraps in less than 10 minutes, said witnesses.

“The diesel tank got burst and flames erupted. Before the passengers could realize what had happened, the blaze engulfed the entire bus,” residents of the village were quoted as saying by local media.

While seven persons, including driver and cleaner of the bus, managed to escape, the remaining passengers were sleeping and got trapped when the accident took place, the police said.

There were 51 passengers in the bus. Most of the victims are believed to be from Andhra Pradesh going home for the Diwali lights festival early next month.

Management of Volvo Buses in India said they are awaiting the results of a “full investigation” by authorities into the accident involving one of its buses.

Sohanjeet Randhawa, Head of Marketing, Volvo Buses India, told local daily the Hindu that the “tragic accident” involving the multi-axle vehicle, which is typically configured to carry a passenger load of up to 50 persons, is being “studied” from all angles by the company.

“Our team has already landed at the accident spot, and we are still in the process of gathering all the relevant information,” Randhawa said.

Asked if the results of the investigations could have a bearing on the design of the buses, Randhawa said a comprehensive investigation would look at all possible causes of the accident, including road design and other factors, according to the newspaper.

Representatives of Jabbar Travels, a private bus service and owner of the bus, said the bus departed from the travel agency’s office around 10:30 p.m. in Bangalore before picking passengers from different points in the city.