Most of them were from Surpur taluk and were on their way to Bangalore

As many as 30 persons were charred to death and 30 sustained burns when a North Eastern Karnataka Road Transport Corporation bus, by which they were travelling, caught fire on the outskirts of Challakere town in Chitradurga district around 3.30 a.m. on Sunday.

Most passengers were from villages such as Kota, Shodesaral Chachimatti, Nagnur, Tolahalli, Nagaral and Gonal in Surpur taluk of Yadgir district. They were said to be on their way to Bangalore in search of work.

Those who died include five men, 15 women and 10 children. Twenty-one bodies were charred beyond recognition.

According to H.N. Satyanarayana Rao, Inspector-General of Police (Eastern Range), the bus fell into a ditch when the driver rammed a culvert. At this juncture, the diesel tank might have caught fire.

Escape

Some passengers who woke up from deep sleep after the bus fell into the ditch, broke open the windows and managed to escape.

Siddaiah Hiremath and Amar Shetty, bus drivers, and Nandangouda, the conductor, were said to have escaped unhurt.

Fire and Emergency Services personnel and the police rushed to the spot and started rescue operations. Fire-fighting personnel had a tough time dousing the flames and removing the bodies. Mr. Rao and Superintendent of Police Labhu Ram supervised the rescue operations. The injured were taken to government hospitals at Challakere. Experts are being summoned from Bangalore to conduct DNA tests.

District in-charge Minister G. Karunakar Reddy visited the spot. He also visited the hospital and consoled those who suffered burns. Mr. Reddy announced an ex gratia amount of Rs. 3.5 lakh (Rs. 1 lakh from the State Government and Rs. 2.5 lakh from the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) for the families of each of them who died. A sum of Rs. 20,000 each has been promised for those who suffered burns and injuries. Transport Minister R. Ashok also paid a visit. According to him, the driver's negligence was the main cause for the accident. He said preliminary inquiries revealed that the driver might have been under the influence of alcohol, but this would be confirmed only after an inquiry. Rajugowda, Surpur MLA, also visited the site of the accident.

Pall of gloom

T.V. Sivanandan reports from Yadgir:

A pall of gloom descended on the poverty-stricken localities in the villages of Surpur taluk from where the victims of the accident had left in the fond of hope of a better life and assured employment.

It was a black Sunday for the villages, including Chowdeshwarihal, Tallalli, Islampur, Parsanalli, Ammapur, Gonal Nanganur and Bachimatti whose loved ones died in the accident.

According to the Surpur tahsildar Veeresh Biradar, four each from Chowdeshwarihal, Tallalli and Islampur and two each from Ammapur and Parsanalli, and one each from Gonal and Bachimatti were killed in the accident, and many others from these villages had a miraculous escape.

Mr. Biradar said as per the information available, after the post-mortem examination of the bodies they were sent to their respective villages in Surpur taluk. “The bodies were expected to reach their destinations late in the night and all the bodies were being sent in ambulances with the relatives who had been sent to the accident site by a special bus by the district authorities to identify the bodies”, he said.

Deputy Commissioner K.G. Jagadeesh told The Hindu that senior officials of the Revenue Department have been sent to the villages from where the victims hailed so that they can receive the bodies and help the relatives in performing the last rites of their loved ones. “We would leave the choice of mass burial or individual burial of the bodies of the victims to the bereaved families and we would not force our decision on the families of the victims,” he said.

“We will provide help for the burial or cremation of the bodies as per the tradition of the families, he said”.

The victims have been identified as Mouneshi Manappa, Anjamma Ramanna, Yellamma Shivappa, Hanumanthamma, Hanumanthaiah from Chowdeshwarihal village, M. Lingappa, Mudukappa Lingappa, Linganna Pujari, and Mahesh Lingappa from Tallalli village, Hanumakshi Basavaraj, Amabaloappa, Renukamma Shivappa, Yellamma Shivappa from Islampur village, Balamma Devappa from Gonal village, Shantamma and Hanumanth from Ammapur village, Mallamma Devappa and Aiholli Devappa from Parsanalli and Girijamma from Nanganur village.

Keywords: bus accident

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