Eleven persons were killed and 18 others injured when a van they were travelling in collided head-on with a truck on the Madurai-Theni highway at S.S. Puram pass near Asaripatti on Saturday.

Drivers of both the vehicles died on the spot.

The dead were identified as Muthuraj, Chinna Durai (20), Nagarajan (45), Palavesam (70), Subramani (55), Veerapudran (60), Podhuvan (70), Pandia Raj (42), van driver Madasamy (32) and Devi Muthu (25), all from Bomminaickenpatti, and lorry driver Chinnasamy (38) of Pradhukaaranpatti.

The injured were rushed to Theni Government Medical College Hospital. The condition of five persons was said to be critical.

The van, which overturned and fell into an eight-foot-deep gorge, was crushed in the impact. The front portion of the truck was severely damaged.

After preliminary investigation, police said the van driver, while attempting to overtake a bus, lost control and hit the truck. The accident took place at 4:30 p.m.

Those travelling in the van were returning home after taking part in a death anniversary ceremony at Veerapandi. Twenty-eight persons were travelling in the van.

Four more killed

In two other accidents at Uthamapalayam and Palanichettipatti near Theni, four persons were killed and 13 injured on Saturday.

Two women were crushed to death and another woman was injured when a maize-harvesting machine overturned at Sadayalpatti near Palanichettipatti. Eleven persons were travelling on the roof of the machine attached to a tractor.

When the tractor attempted to cross a bund on a maize field, the machine overturned.

The dead were identified as Bommuthai (34) and Lalitha (37) of S. Vadipatti.

Two engineering college students from Kerala were killed and two others injured when their car collided with a mini-van near Uthamapalayam early on Saturday. They were identified as Vishan (20) and Vishal of Kottayam.