Zee Media Bureau
Hyderabad: Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at the scene, where forty-five passengers, including a baby girl, were charred to death and seven others suffered burns when a private luxury bus burst into flames near Palem village in Andhra Pradesh in the wee hours of Wednesday.
The accident occurred shortly after 5 AM when the diesel tank of the Hyderabad-bound bus from Bangalore hit the railing above a culvert near Palem, around 130 km from Hyderabad on Bangalore-Hyderabad National Highway when its driver was trying to overtake a car, police said.
The whole bus was engulfed in flames in a matter of minutes.
The passengers were asleep when the accident took place, leaving no time for them to escape. The victims were charred beyond recognition.
According to a survivor, some people broke the windows to jump out. But others were not lucky. He said the door was also locked, leaving no escape route for most passengers.
Anxious relatives of the deceased rushed to the spot only to see blackened remains of their loved ones, as badly burned bodies lay at the mishap-site, making it difficult for wailing families to identify them.
Fifty-two persons, including 50 passengers, were travelling in the Volvo bus when the tragedy struck. Five passengers, driver Feroze Pasha and cleaner Ayyaz, managed to escape with burn injuries and were undergoing treatment at different hospitals, another police officer said.
According to police, the bodies were charred beyond recognition. Four of the deceased were identified, they said, even as grieving relatives scoured bodies to find their dead.
Police and other government machinery had a tough time extricating bodies from the fire-ravaged bus as the dead piled up at the back of the vehicle indicating the struggle the passengers underwent before finally giving up.
Officials had to use metal cutters to break open the charred bus frame to enter inside the mangled vehicle.
The bodies of 42 passengers out of the 45 deceased, who were charred to death, were shifted to a government hospital in Hyderabad city, from Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh, the police said.
Earlier, the authorities conducted the post mortem of all 45 bodies at a government hospital in Mahbubnagar, they said.
Four bodies were handed over to their relatives after they were identified by wrist watch, rings and other ornaments on them. Relatives and family members of the dead have been asked to submit their blood samples to enable authorities to conduct DNA tests, the police said.
Five software professionals including a woman were also killed. Jyothy Mahapatra (33), one of the victims, was working for a multinational software firm in Bangalore and was on his way to Hyderabad on the ill-fated bus to take a flight home to his native town of Cuttack to celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Five techies killed
Shakthi Kanth (28), who was also working with a software giant in Bangalore, was on his way to Hyderabad from where he was due to go to Bhubaneswar along with his family members who reside in Andhra Pradesh capital.
Vittu Amarender(29), who is working with another IT firm in Bangalore, also fell a victim in the mishap.
Amarender hailed from Nancharla village in Karimnagar District and his wife is pregnant, his relatives said.
B Akshay Singh (22), a resident of Jawahar Nagar of Hyderabad and an employee with a local IT company in Bangalore, died in the accident, said Dr Sudhakar, uncle of the deceased.
Roohia, a resident of Mehadipatnam and who was working with a little-known IT company in Hyderabad was among the deceased, her uncle said.
Expressing shock and anguish over the ghastly bus mishap in Mahabubnagar district, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy said that an inquiry would be conducted into the tragedy to prevent recurrence of such accidents.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also expressed sorrow at the death of 45 people in a fire accident in a bus in Andhra Pradesh.
While extending his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families, he wished a speedy recovery to those injured in the accident, an official statement said.
Volvo to help in probe
Swedish transport vehicle major AB Volvo has offered to help state agencies investigating the fiery mishap.
The luxury coach, built by the city-based subsidiary, was being operated by leading private transport carrier Jabbar Travels from Bangalore to Hyderabad, about 600 km away, through National Highway 7.