Page last updated at 07:31 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 08:31 UK

Children die in Indian bus plunge


Rescuers use a crane to pull the bus from the river

At least 44 people have been killed after a bus plunged into a river in the western Indian state of Gujarat, a local official has said.

Most of the dead are children who were travelling to a school in Baroda when the bus fell into the Narmada river.

Four children have been rescued, the local official said.

The Narmada, one of India's largest rivers, originates in central India and flows through the west of the country before emptying into the Arabian sea.

Local officials said it was unclear how many passengers were on board the bus, but that the death toll might rise, as some were still missing.

The body of the driver has been recovered, one official said.

Heading to exams

Reports said that a school in Bodeli in Baroda district had hired the bus to transport pupils and that the children were on the way to attend examinations when the incident happened early on Wednesday.

Gujarat Narmada river

They say the driver may have been going too fast and lost control of the bus.

Road accidents are common in India, claiming thousands of lives every year. Most of them are blamed on reckless driving and poorly maintained roads.

At least 19 people died after a school bus collided with a train at a railway crossing in the northern Indian state of Punjab last December.

In 2006, six children were killed after the bus carrying them to school plunged into a canal in neighbouring Haryana state.

Seventeen children were rescued by the police and villagers.

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