Nine children and a teacher were killed, when a school van overturned in to a pond at Panayadikuthagai in Katripulam village here on Thursday.

The accident happened at about 8.45 a.m., when the van was heading to a private school at Kariapattinam after picking up the children. The van was travelling on the narrow road when it skidded and overturned into the 30-feet deep Kamakshiamman temple pond by the side.

According to the cleaner’s statement, there were 24 occupants including the driver and cleaner. Twelve children were rescued. These children owed it to the locals, who jumped into the pond, broke into the van and saved them.

According to the accounts of a rescued boy, the driver was talking on his mobile phone when the accident happened although this is yet to be established. The driver, who is reported to have saved one boy, is absconding. The cleaner has been taken into custody.

The Kamakshiamman temple pond, which had water to its brim, hampered the already narrow rugged road. Even as the water was being pumped out of the pond, the pond skated in. The fire service vehicle had to be moved away as one edge of the pond began to slide.

Fifteen motors including four heavy motors were engaged in a five-hour labour to pump out water from the pond. However, no further bodies were found. Children were mostly from kindergarten with an exception of two, who were in standard IV. The 22-year-old teacher, Suganthi, and the children were primarily from the nearby Nagakodayan village. A family had lost both its boys in the accident.

The names of the children who died were given as: Ajay Selvabarathi (6), Vijila (5), Jayasurya (6), Jayaprakasam (5), Hariharan (4), Easwari (7), Mahalakshmi (8), Abhinaya (8) and Ajay Sivaprakasam (6).

Four of the injured were admitted to the Vedaranyam Government Hospital and the others were sent home after treatment. A few, who were given first aid, were brought back to the hospital in the afternoon, after complaints of uneasiness, having consumed the pond water.

A relief of Rs. 50,000 to the families of the dead children and Rs.1 lakh for the family of the teacher has been announced from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.