Nine persons, including 2 women passengers, died when a fire broke out following a head-on collision involving a Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation bus and a rice-laden lorry near here during the early hours of Wednesday.

The Cuddalore-bound bus from Vellore was proceeding towards Tiruvannamalai. At Pudu Mallavadi, the lorry rammed it at about 5.45 am. Before the bus passengers, who were asleep, realised, the vehicle was on fire.

Awakened by the cries of occupants of the bus, villagers rushed to the bus and rescued many passengers. The dead include bus driver Ravikumar (38), hailing from Chozhavaram, and Mahadevan (38), bus conductor from Mel Vallam. The others who died were passengers Geetha (45), Poongodi (35), and Suresh (30), Venkatesan (30). The lorry driver and cleaner and one another person remain unidentified.

Thirty injured passengers were rescued and sent to Tiruvannamalai GH from where many of them were referred to hospitals in Chennai and Puducherry.

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