INDIA

20 children die as train rams into school bus in southern India

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 11:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 11:48pm
AFP

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A passenger train rammed into a school bus in southern India yesterday, killing 20 people, mostly young children, officials said. It was but the latest fatal accident on the country's rail network.

The train collided with the bus carrying about 30 children as it drove across an unmanned level crossing in the state of Telangana, dragging the mangled vehicle down the tracks, officials said.

"There are 20 confirmed dead based on railway inputs. A lot of people who are critically injured were shifted to different hospitals," said K. Samba Siva Rao, a spokesman for South Central Railway.

The bus had been travelling to school when the accident occurred in the village of Masaipet about 62km from the state capital Hyderabad.

Large crowds swarmed over the accident site trying to move twisted metal to retrieve small bodies trapped inside, television footage showed.

Parents who reached the site were seen wailing, crouched next to their dead children draped in white sheets. A small crane and a digger tried to lift wreckage, while school bags were seen stacked alongside the tracks.

Grieving and angry parents also gathered outside a nearby hospital where the injured children, some in a critical condition, were taken. Some parents called for the sacking of senior railway officials over the tragedy.

Railways Minister Sadanand Gowda blamed the bus driver for the tragedy, saying it appeared he did not stop at the crossing to check for trains.

"As per the preliminary information received, the incident occurred due to the negligent driving by the driver of the school bus," he told parliament.

Railway official Rao said: "The children were very young, from the nursery level to sixth standard." Students in sixth standard are normally aged nine or ten in India.

"The train dragged the bus for 100 yards after the collision," Rao added.

The train was travelling from the city of Nanded in Maharashtra state to Hyderabad in neighbouring Telangana. No one on the train was badly injured, officials said.