Forty-four passengers were charred to death in an accident near Kothakota in Mahabubnagar district, 130 km from Hyderabad, when a private passenger bus from Bangalore went in flames in the early hours on Wednesday.
The Volvo bus operated by Jabbar Travels was on its way to Hyderabad with carrying of 51 passengers, including two crew members. Five passengers, the driver and another crew member escaped from the inferno while the rest were charred to death.
The bodies were burnt beyond recognition and it proved a daunting task for the officials to extricate them from the bus. They were exploring the possibility of conducting DNA tests on the bodies to establish the identity.
Fuel leak caused fire?
Police inferred from the evidences available on the spot that the vehicle hit a culvert while overtaking a car impacting the fuel tank on the right side. The tank burst into flames and soon engulfed the entire bus leaving no chance for the inmates to escape.
All the passengers rushed to the rear part of the bus indicating that the flames started in the front and spread to the back.
But, they could not succeed in creating an opening due to exhaustion caused by shortage of oxygen and pungent fumes from the burning air-conditioners.
The officials collected the list of 33 passengers who reserved their seats at the originating point in Bangalore. But some passengers boarded at different places and there is no record of their identity.
One passenger managed to escape from the inferno but collapsed and died next to the door. Andhra Pradesh Minister for Information D.K. Aruna, who hails from Mahabubnagar, reached the spot and supervised the rescue operations along with
Collector Girija Sankar and SP Nagendra Kumar. TDP leader Nara Lokesh also visited the place.
Authorities of Volvo Buses said they are awaiting the results of a “full investigation” by authorities into the accident involving one of its buses in an accident in Mahbubnagar district early on Wednesday morning.
Sohanjeet Randhawa, Head of Marketing, Volvo Buses India, told 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” Mr. Randhawa said.
Asked if the results of the investigations could have a bearing on the design of the buses, Mr. Randhawa said a comprehensive investigation would look at all possible causes of the accident, including road design and other factors. The investigations may take one or two weeks, he said.
The 44 passengers who boarded the ill-fated bound for Hyderabad from picked-up from 10 places in Bangalore on Tuesday night.
Representatives of Jabbar Travels, the private bus service whose bus was involved in a horrific accident near Kothakota village of Mahabubnagar district early Wednesday morning, said the bus departed from the travel agency's office around 10.30 pm before picking passengers from different points in the city including Mekhri Circle and Hebbal.
Five passengers besides bus driver Firoz and cleaner Faiyaz managed to jump out of the burning bus, said the police in Bangalore.
Two passengers on board the bus have been identified as Venkatesh, President of Chiranjeevi Fans Association in Bangalore, and his relative Anitha. A resident of Chamarajpet in Bangalore he had left for Hyderabad to invite relatives for his niece's marriage.
Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy said the mishap involving Jabbar Travels took place around 5.20 am and added that he had directed the Bangalore police to collect all details of the deceased.
Mr. Reddy said the police has also been directed to check the documents of the vehicle and the permits. Jabbar Travels representative Shakeel said the bus involved in the mishap was a multi-axle Volvo bus and added that the agency possessed all necessary documents and valid permits. The travel agency representatives were also leaving for the accident site, he said.
It is unlikely that the government would pay the compensation to the deceased as the bus belonged to a private travel agency. However he would discuss the matter with the government, Mr. Reddy said.
Meanwhile, several anxious friends and relatives of the passengers on board the bus gathered at the Travel Agency's office in Kalasipalyam for information on their near and dear ones.
Helpline opened for Andhra bus fire
The Mahabubnagar district police in Andhra Pradesh have opened a helpline to provide information about the mishap.
Following are the helpline numbers: 9494600100, 08542-245927, 245930, 245932.