PATNA: At least nine people were charred to death and ten others were injured when a bus they were travelling in suddenly caught fire in Harnaut in Bihar’s Nalanda district on Thursday evening.
Two children and seven adults were among the dead, the police said adding that ascertaining the identities of the dead was proving difficult since the bodies were charred beyond recognition.
The bodies of the nine victims were taken out of the bus when it was still surrounded by flames. Ten people who suffered burn injuries were rushed to the Harnaut Sadar Hospital by the local people.
The incident took place at Vishwakarma Chowk that comes under the Harnaut police station in chief minister Nitish Kumar’s home district of Nalanda at about 5:30 pm. The private bus, Baba Rath, which was going from Patna to Sheikhpura had at least 60 passengers when the fire started.
“The fire started in the front part of the bus and spread throughout immediately. The local people gathered there and tried to douse the fire and pull out passengers by breaking the window panes,” said Harnaut MLA Harinarayan Singh, quoting eyewitnesses.
The driver and the conductor of the bus allegedly fled moments after the flames surrounded the vehicle. Sources said no loss of life would have happened if the emergency door of the bus had been working. The local people blocked the NH-30 to protest the delay in the arrival of fire brigade and officials of the administration at the site.
While the exact reasons behind the fire are yet to be known, sources said a sack of carbide was being carried in the driver’s cabin which caught fire first. Others said two LPG cylinders being carried on top of the bus caught fire due to the scorching heat.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has ordered a probe into the incident and announced an ex-gratia of Rs four lakh each for the families of the dead and free medical treatment to all the injured. Nalanda district magistrate Thiyagrajan SM, SP Kumar Ashish and the local MLA are camping at the spot, sources said.