New Delhi: Twenty-five passengers were charred to death after the bus they were travelling in caught fire after on the Samruddhi Expressway in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district on Saturday, July 1, PTI reported.
There were a total of 33 passengers on the bus. Eight of them survived the tragedy.
The private bus was on its way from Nagpur to Pune when it rammed into a divider around 1.30 am at Pimpalkhuta village near Sindkhedraja in Buldhana, around 134 kilometre from Nagpur, police told PTI.
The eight people who survived the tragedy included the bus driver and its cleaner. They told the police that they managed to come out of the burning vehicle through broken windows.
Buldhana Superintendent of Police Sunil Kadasne said that the eight passengers were taken to a nearby hospital and are safe.
The police added that the driver was being interrogated and the process of arresting him was underway.
Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde has ordered a probe into the accident. He has announced an aid of Rs 5 lakh for the families of the deceased.
बुलढाणा जिल्ह्यातील सिंदखेडराजाजवळ समृद्धी महामार्गावर खाजगी बसच्या झालेल्या भीषण अपघाताबद्दल मुख्यमंत्री एकनाथ शिंदे यांनी तीव्र दुःख व्यक्त केले आहे. या अपघातातील मृत आणि त्यांच्या कुटुंबिंयांप्रति सहवेदना प्रकट करुन या दुर्दैवी घटनेतील मृतांच्या नातेवाईकांना मुख्यमंत्री…
— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) July 1, 2023
Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the bodies of the deceased were charred beyond recognition and if the identity of the victims is not established, then DNA testing will be conducted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and other leaders have expressed grief over the loss of lives.
The cause of the accident
PTI reported that the tyre of the bus burst, causing the vehicle to collide with a pole and crash into a divider, ultimately catching fire.
The bus belonging to Vidarbha Travels had left Nagpur for Pune at 4 pm on Friday. It stopped at Karanja in Yavatmal district for dinner but met with the accident some time after it resumed the journey, the police told the news agency.
“After hitting the divider, the bus fell on its right side with the entry/exit door of the bus facing the sky. Within minutes, the vehicle caught fire. Some of the passengers were able to come out of the broken windows from the rear side,” said a senior police official from Buldhana.
One of the survivors said, “A tyre of the bus burst and the vehicle caught fire immediately. The blaze spread in no time. A passenger sitting next to me and I managed to escape by breaking the rear window.”
A local resident, who rushed to the site, told PTI that the people who were able to come out of the bus later told him that they sought help from other vehicles on the highway, but nobody stopped.
Shinde termed the accident as “unfortunate” and stressed the need for drivers on the expressway to exercise caution while driving.
In a tweet, the prime minister’s office (PMO) said, “Deeply saddened by the devastating bus mishap in Buldhana, Maharashtra. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives. May the injured recover soon. The local administration is providing all possible assistance to the affected.”
Deeply saddened by the devastating bus mishap in Buldhana, Maharashtra. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives. May the injured recover soon. The local administration is providing all possible assistance to the affected: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) July 1, 2023
The PMO offered an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the relatives of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured.
An ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the bus mishap in Buldhana. Rs. 50,000 would be given to the injured: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) July 1, 2023
Home minister Amit Shah described the accident as heartbreaking. “In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in this tragic accident,” he tweeted in Hindi.
महाराष्ट्र के बुलढाणा जिले में हुआ सड़क हादसा हृदयविदारक है। दुःख की इस घड़ी में मेरी संवेदनाएं इस भीषण हादसे में जान गंवाने वाले लोगों के परिजनों के साथ हैं। प्रशासन द्वारा घायलों को त्वरित उपचार उपलब्ध कराया जा रहा है। ईश्वर से उनके शीघ्र स्वस्थ होने की प्रार्थना करता हूँ।
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) July 1, 2023
Fadnavis told PTI that a smart system is being installed on the Samruddhi Expressway to prevent accidents. “The system will check the speed of the vehicles and alert them. But it will take some time. Till then, we will have to create awareness among drivers at the toll booths on what precautions need to be taken to prevent accidents at night,” he said.
PTI reported that he brushed aside criticism about the poor quality of construction of the expressway, saying, “Only vehicle error and human error have been noticed in the accidents that occurred on the expressway so far.”
Accidents on the Samruddhi Mahamarg
Expressing grief over the tragedy, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said the government needs to take steps to curb the speed limit of private vehicles.
“The government should take immediate steps to prevent accidents,” he said, adding he had expressed concern over the number of accidents on the expressway just last week.
Between December 11, 2022 and April 30, 2023, 358 accidents were reported on the Samruddhi Mahamarg, of which 98 accidents were caused by highway hypnosis or sleepiness during driving, the Indian Express reported.
The newspaper cited data saying that 143 people were critically injured and 236 received minor injuries in the total 358 accidents that occurred on the Samruddhi Mahamarg.
After highway hypnosis, overspeeding and tyre bursting are the other two major causes of accidents on the Samruddhi Mahamarg, the report added.