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44 die as bus plunges into canal in Vadodara

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YOUNG LIVES LOST: A rescue worker carries the body of a girl recovered from the Narmada canal on Wednesday. —
YOUNG LIVES LOST: A rescue worker carries the body of a girl recovered from the Narmada canal on Wednesday. —

Manas Dasgupta

41 were schoolchildren going to write their final examinations

BODELI (VADODARA): Forty-four people, including 41 schoolchildren, were killed when a State-owned Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) bus fell into the main Narmada dam canal on the outskirts of Bodeli town in Vadodara district, about 200 kilometres from Ahmedabad, early on Wednesday morning.

Four children were rescued by the local people from the 30-feet deep canal.

The children, all eighth or ninth standard students of three schools in Bodeli town, were going to appear for their final examinations. Thirty-two of them were girls. Nineteen of the children belonged to one village — Bamroli, about five kilometers from Bodeli.

According to G. R. Aloria, vice-chairman and managing director of GSRTC, the accident occurred when the driver, while apparently trying to overtake a truck on the 100-feet long bridge over the main canal, lost control and ran into the concrete side-wall. One of the boys admitted to the Radha hospital in Bodeli confirmed that the driver was trying to overtake a truck. But he and three other survivors were too dazed to say anything more. The driver, the conductor and an elderly lady were the others who died.

Refuting allegation that the bus was an old and discarded vehicle, Mr Aloria said it was of 1997 registration and in good condition. The driver, Madhusudan Baria, had a clean record of over 15 years with the GSRTC. He said forensic experts, who examined the bus after it was fished out of the canal, confirmed that there was no mechanical failure and its steering, speed controller and other parts were intact. He said the accident must have occurred when the vehicle’s axel broke while trying to overtake the truck.

It was the first bus in the morning from Vagdol village to Bodeli. For most of the students, Wednesday was the last day of examinations before the summer vacation. The day’s examinations were cancelled after the accident.

The entire Bodeli town and the surrounding villages were plunged in gloom as the news spread.

Shops remained closed in Bodeli town. People here and in surrounding villages observed a day of fast and prayer.

The local people alleged that there was a delay in rushing help and launching rescue operations.

The State government has appointed a three-member high level committee to inquire into the cause of the accident.

The government also declared a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased.

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