Forty die as bus skids into ditch

Forty people, most of them commuters, were killed on Monday when a crowded bus shot off a highway in torrential rains and plunged into a rain-filled ditch in India’s West Bengal state, police said.

The bus skidded off the road mid-morning in the town of Laxmipur, 355km from the state capital of Calcutta, police spokesperson Sandanu Kar said.

“The bus sank in the ditch filled up by monsoon rains,” state police inspector general Chayan Mukherjee added.

Mukherjee said local rescuers pulled 35 bodies from the bus, which had also overturned. They were working to remove the rest of the bodies.

The driver, who was racing at “breakneck” speed in blinding rains, was arrested, he said.

About 15 other people were injured in the crash, he said.

“Most of the injured became unconscious as the bus sank. Their condition is critical,” he said.
“We fear the death toll may cross 40.”

The official estimated about 60 people were travelling on the rush-hour bus.

“One cannot have the exact number of passengers as a number of people sit on the roofs of buses or stand on the footboards.

“Normally buses become crowded with office-bound people by the morning peak period,” he said.

The bus was travelling from Malda district headquarters to the suburban town of Chachol.

Marxist-ruled West Bengal has an archaic public transport network and buses are frequently seen carrying three times their capacity and travelling at high speeds because of poor policing of the state’s pot-holed motorways.—Sapa-AFP

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