Hyderabad: Forty-five passengers, many of them returning home for Diwali, were charred to death when a speeding bus exploded in a ball of fire after its sleepy driver hit a railing on the Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway early on Wednesday morning.Seven persons managed to escape from the cluthes of fire.
The bus was carrying 52 passengers from Bangalore to Hyderabad, when it hit the railing on a culvert near Palem in Kothakota of Mahbubnagar district, about 130 km from Hyderabad.
Only seven persons, including driver Feroz Pasha and the cleaner, could escape. Pasha later told the police that he had fallen asleep at the wheel resulting in the accident.
It is believed that the railing pierced the diesel tank of the bus, causing it to explode. The bus was going at 130 kmph at that time.
The blaze was so intense that the bodies of most victims were reduced to lumps of burnt flesh. Only four of them have been identified so far. The others were charred beyond recognition.
About 20 bodies were found heaped towards the rear of the bus, indicating that they had run away from the fire and were looking for the emergency escape that the bus did not have.
West Zone inspector-general of police K.V. Rajendranath Reddy said, “The driver was negligent and hit the culvert railing due to which the iron rod pierced the diesel tank on the right side of the vehicle.”
Bus company did not follow any Norms:
At least six passengers in excess of those allowed by transport rules had boarded the bus from Bengaluru to Hyderabad on Tuesday night. The seating capacity of the bus, under the issued permit, was only 43 passengers, a driver and a helper.
Flouting this limit, a total of 52 passengers, including a child, were travelling in the bus. This flouting of norms would have gone unnoticed had the accident not occurred, as officials generally turn a blind eye to overcrowding.
In all, 45 passengers, including the child, died in the accident on Wednesday morning. Another violation – the permit issued by the transport department was for a “contract carriage”, but Jabbar was operating it as a “stage carriage.” Officials said action would be taken against the perpetrators.
“Plying as a stage carriage with a contract carriage permit is an offence and we will take action against the travel companies,” a senior transport official said. Buses which have a ‘contract carriage permit’ are not allowed to pick up passengers from different locations. However, most private buses flout the norms.
More passengers might have boarded the bus in Hindupur and Anantapur, officials suspect. As expected, Jabbar Travels officials did not have details of additional passengers.
The government also has no control over the speed of the private buses as officials said a recent directive from the Centre had prohibited installation of speed governors in vehicles with All India Permits. “The Centre had said vehicles with all India permits need not have speed governors installed. We, and several other states, wrote back against the directive. But discussions are still going on,” a transport official said.