At least 24 passengers were charred to death and 14 suffered burns when a Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation bus burst into flames after crashing into a lorry on the national highway in Bareilly on Monday.
The Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation bus, carrying 41 passengers from Delhi, was on its way to Gonda when the accident took place near Bada bypass on NH 24, over 250 km from the national capital.
The bodies were so badly charred that doctors found it difficult to determine the gender of the victims. DNA tests would be conducted to identify the victims.
"The death toll has risen to 24. Besides, 14 others are suffering from serious burn injuries," senior Uttar Pradesh minister Rajesh Agarwal told reporters.
Three passengers escaped with minor injuries.
Senior Superintendent of Police Jogendra Kumar said, "The accident involving a bus of UPSRTC and a truck occurred between 1.00 AM and 1.30 AM," he said.
Kumar said six critically injured passengers have been hospitalised.
According to eyewitnesses, the diesel tank of the bus burst after the collision which led to the fire.
"Around 5.45 am, we received 22 bodies from the accident site. The bodies are charred beyond recognition. It is difficult to even determine the gender of the people," said Dr Shailesh Ranjan of the Bareilly district hospital.
The number of male and female passengers who died in the accident would be clear only after the post-mortem, Chief Medical Officer, Bareilly, Dr Vijay Yadav, said.
Agarwal, who flew in Bareilly from Lucknow in a helicopter on the instructions of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to supervise relief operations, said, "A DNA test will be performed on all bodies."
He was accompanied by two of his ministerial colleagues Swatantradev Singh and Brijesh Pathak.
The driver of the bus is also among the deceased, while the conductor received serious injuries.
The driver of the truck (UP-25 BT-5337), which was coming from Shahjehanpur, was later arrested.
"The truck driver Saqeeb has been arrested. The truck has been impounded and legal proceedings are underway," UP Police spokesperson said in Lucknow, adding a case has been registered under various sections of IPC.
"The truck and the bus both caught fire after the collision. Fire engines reached as soon as possible but the flames were so high that it took us a lot of effort to actually douse the flames and reach inside", said senior police officer SK Bhagat.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives and sanctioned Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of those killed. He also announced Rs 50,000 for each of those injured.
Adityanath announced financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased, Rs 50,000 to the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 for those who got minor injuries.
Agarwal, who belongs to Bareilly, however, said the compensation would be paid only after after the identity of the deceased was established.
The chief minister instructed officials to ensure adequate medical treatment for the injured.
Two drivers -- Chandrashekhar Shukla and Sundarlal Yadav -- along with conductor Akhtar Aziz Farooqui, and Shukla's daughter were in the ill-fated bus.
Shukla had driven the bus from Delhi to Rampur, while Yadav took over from Rampur, the conductor told the police.
Photographs: PTI Photo