25 dead as bus catches fire on Nagpur-Mumbai super-expressway, PM mourns

Mumbai : At least 25 passengers were charred to death and eight others injured after a bus burst into flames following a major accident on the Nagpur-Mumbai super-expressway at Buldhana on Saturday, officials said.

The private luxury bus, belonging to Vidarbha Travels, was traveling from Nagpur to Pune and the tragedy occurred near the Sindhkhedraja area at around 1.25 a.m., a police official said.

As the bus was speeding, it apparently suffered a tyre burst, after which it hit an expressway electric pole, rammed into a divider then went out of control and overturned, police said.

As it skid for several metres, its diesel tank exploded into a huge ball of flame, engulfing the vehicle and trapping the passengers inside, said a police official.

There were 33 people on board, including two drivers and a cleaner.

The eight injured persons have been admitted to the Buldhana civil hospital for treatment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have expressed condolences.

Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar, National Working President Supriya Sule, General Secretary Dr. Jitendra Awhad, and several other state leaders have expressed grief over the tragedy.

While Modi declared an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakhs from the PMNRF for the victims’ kin, with Rs 50, 000 for the injured, Shinde announced a Rs 5 lakh compensation for the kin of each deceased, and free treatment for the injured.

In a message, the Prime Minister said: “Deeply saddened by the devastating bus mishap in Buldhana. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives.”

Pawar said that the tragedy had brought to the fore the issue of speed-limits for vehicles on the expressway and the government should take serious note of this and initiate immediate measures.

“Concern was expressed by asking the statistics of accidents from the concerned department a week ago. Urgent measures were suggested to prevent accidents.”

Meanwhile, Fadnavis said that the police are probing the cause of the accident.

According to reports, none of the injured were in a serious condition.

The scene of the accident presents a ghastly picture with dark charred skeletal remains of the luxury bus lying beside the expressway, and a stench of the bodies and the ashen vehicle looming there.

At dawn, a chilling picture was present when the burnt bodies of the victims were retrieved and kept on a clearing, covered with sheets, while scores of bags, clothes, papers, files and other belongings of the passengers could be seen strewn around for several metres in the vicinity.

As a majority of the victims have been burnt beyond recognition, the police said that they will try to match them with the DNAs of their relatives before handing them over for the last rites.

Shinde and Fadnavis will visit the accident site for a spot assessment of the situation and meet the injured in the hospital.