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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 10:19 GMT
Indian bus goes up in flames
Charred remains of the bus
There was no escape for many of those inside
At least 21 people have died after a packed passenger bus caught fire in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Eyewitness and independent accounts however place the death toll closer to 60.


A petrol can placed behind the driver's seat was the cause of the fire

Police official BS Chauhan
Officials say many of the dead were burnt alive in the accident, which took place late on Wednesday in Mandla district, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Jabalpur.

Eyewitnesses say the bus overturned and caught fire after one of its tyres burst.

"The bus tuned turtle and a petrol can placed behind the driver's seat was the cause of the fire," reports quoted a police official, BS Chauhan, as saying.

Many bodies were said to have been burnt beyond recognition.

More than 20 survivors were taken to hospital with serious burns.

Overcrowded

A BBC reporter says the bus was carrying about 100 passengers, well over its capacity.

The issue was raised in the Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly on Thursday, with opposition members demanding a statement from the state government.

That has been promised on Monday.

Buses are a popular means of transport in rural India.

But many of them are poorly maintained and frequently overcrowded.

In June, at least 25 people were killed in northern India when a bus carrying pilgrims to a Himalayan shrine went out of control and plunged into a mountain river.

In another accident in May, at least 46 people were killed in the eastern state of West Bengal when a bus carrying office workers veered off the road into a pond.

See also:

27 May 02 | South Asia
16 Jun 02 | South Asia
24 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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