Bangalore: Thirty people, including 10 children and 15 women, were burnt to death early Sunday when a state-run bus they were travelling in fell off a bridge into a dry culvert and caught fire in Karnataka`s Chitradurga district, police said.
The bus, with 64 people aboard, was on its way to Bangalore from Surpur in Gulbarga district when the accident took place at Challakari, about 200 km from here.
"The accident happened around 3 a.m. when the bus hit cement blocks on the left side of the small bridge after the driver lost control and plunged into a culvert," Chitradurga Superintendent of Police Labhu Ram said from the spot.
Within minutes the bus caught fire when its diesel tank exploded on the impact of the plunge.
Driver of the ill-fated bus Siddaiah, who survived the accident and ran away from the spot, surrendered to the police later.
"We have arrested the driver and booked a case against him under sections 279 and 304A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for negligent driving and causing the accident," Ram said.
Most of the 64 passengers, who were on board the North Eastern Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (NEKSRTC) bus, were asleep when it veered off the bridge.
As the victims were charred to death in the fire, 34 people, including the second driver and conductor, managed to extricate themselves from the burning bus with severe to moderate injuries.
Three of them were in a serious condition at a government hospital in Chitradurga. The rest were discharged later in the evening from Challakeri hospital, around 1 km away from the accident spot.
"The majority of them were labourers, who were being ferried to Bangalore for construction work by a contractor building infrastructure projects," a district official said.
"We have registered a case against the driver and the corporation," Ram added.
Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, who expressed shock and grief over the tragedy, announced a compensation of Rs.100,000 for each victim.
State Transport Minister R Ashok, who visited the accident spot, told reporters that preliminary reports indicated that negligence on the driver`s part had resulted in the accident.
"Negligent driving is suspected to have caused the accident as the bus was speeding on the extreme left and hit a road barrier on the bridge and skidded into the ditch," Ashok said.
Revenue Minister G Karunakara Reddy also visited the accident spot to supervise rescue and relief operations.
NEKSRTC has also announced a compensation of Rs.250,000 to the kin of each of those killed.