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22 people charred to death as bus catches fire in Tamil Nadu

Rescue personnel searching for victims after a private bus which overturned and caught fire killing 22 passengers at Avalur near Kaveripakkam on the Chennai-Bangalore National highway on Tuesday night. UNI PHOTO
Rescue personnel searching for victims after a private bus which overturned and caught fire killing 22 passengers at Avalur near Kaveripakkam on the Chennai-Bangalore National highway on Tuesday night. UNI PHOTO

As many as 22 people were charred to death when a private air-conditioned bus hit a culvert, plunged into a 10 ft deep ditch, overturned and caught fire at Avalur near Kaveripakkam in Vellore district of Tamil Nadu last night.

Police sources told UNI that said the deceased included 17 men and five women.

The private bus, belonging to leading transport operator KPN Travels, was on its way to Tiruppur from Chennai when the mishap occured around 2300 hrs.

All the bodies were charred beyond recognition. In all 24 people, including the driver, were in the bus.

While the bus driver, Nagarajan, hailing from Dasanayakanpatti in Salem district, jumped out of the vehicle, another person, Karthik Rajan, who was seated near the window in the last row, suffered injuries and was admitted to the Kancheepuram Government hospital.

The driver later surrendered before the Vellore West Police Station.

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The accident spot, near Kaveripakkam, is located on the Chennai-Bangalore National Highway, about 40 kms both from Kancheepuram and Vellore.

The bus was proceeding at a very high speed when the mishap occurred.

The driver, in a bid to avoid ramming into a stationery lorry, swerved to his right, lost control and hit the culvert.

In the impact, the barricade over the culvert broke into pieces.

The front tyres of the bus came off the vehicle which plunged into the ditch, overturned and landed on its roof.

As the air-conditioned unit of the bus crashed into the ground, it immediately exploded and caught fire, killing 22 people on the spot.

The victims were charred to death as fire engulfed the entire bus, leaving no chance for them to escape, sources said.

While the driver managed to jump off the vehicle before it came crashing, another passenger, Karthik Rajan, who was seated near the window in the last row, managed to come out through a broken window.

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Karthik Rajan, who was travelling along with his wife Smitha to Tiruppur, tried to save her life but could not go near the bus as the flames were leaping out of the vehicle.

It was a pathetic sight as he saw his wife charred to death in front of his eyes.

The driver, who sustained injuries, surrendered before the police and was admitted to the Vellore Government Headquarters Hospital.

By the time the Fire Services personnel reached the spot, the bus was completely gutted in the fire.

The scene of the accident presented a gory site as some of the bodies had to be collected in plastic bags and taken to Walljah Government Hospital for post-mortem examination.

Tamil Nadu Backward Classes Minister T K M Chinniah, Transport Minister Senthil Balaji and Health Minister V S Vijay rushed to the spot and supervised the relief operatons.

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Senior officials, including the Vellore District Collector and Kancheepuram District Superintendent of Police also rushed to the spot.

Vellore Fire Services Deputy director David Vincent and his team battled hard for over two hours to put out the fire.

Fire fighting units from Kancheepuram, Kaveripakkam, Arakkonam, Ranipet, Sholingur and Arcot were also involved in dousing the fire.

All the bodies were shifted to the Walljah Government Hospital around 0630 hrs this morning for autopsy.

Since all the bodies were charred beyond recognition, hospital authorities were planned to conduct DNA tests to establish the identity of the deceased.

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The authorities have also sought details from the KPN Travels to establish the identity of the victims.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa condoled the death of 22 people and announced a solatium of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of those killed in the mishap.

Making a suo motu statement in the State Assembly, she expressed her heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and announced Rs 50,000 assistance to the injured. She said the assistance would be provided from the Chief Minister's Public Relief Fund.

NNN

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