A two-tiered 'sleeper bus' on its way from Lucknow to Delhi skidded off the Yamuna Expressway and plunged about 20 feet into a drain in the early hours of Monday, killing 29 people and injuring 18, officials said.
The accident took place at 4.30 am in Etmadpur, about 200 km from Delhi, when the Uttar Pradesh Roadways bus dashed against the safety railing at high speed and hurtled down into the overflowing drain, they said.
Screams of passengers trapped inside the bus could be heard in the still of the pre-dawn darkness. As news of the tragedy spread, people from villages nearby rushed to rescue the survivors, many who were deep in sleep when the accident occurred, eyewitnesses said.
The injured were rushed to different hospitals, including a private health facility, in the district, the officials said.
The operation to pull out the mangled remains of the bus -- the roof was ripped off when it fell from the bridge -- took several hours, with two excavators and a crane being deployed.
"One sleeper coach passenger bus travelling from Lucknow to Delhi met with an accident on Yamuna Expressway," the Uttar Pradesh Police said on Twitter.
The 'Janrath Bus' of the Uttar Pradesh Roadways' Awadh Depot (Lucknow) was going from Lucknow to the national capital's Anand Vihar ISBT, officials said. The sleeper bus has two decks, the lower one for those sitting and the one above with berths that let passengers stretch out.
Police in Agra released a list of 19 of those killed.
They are Siddharth Dubey, Satya Prakash Sharma, Dhreeraj Pandey, Anvesh Awasthi, Satya Prakash Tiwari, Aditya Kashyap, Premchandra, Vijay Bahadur Singh, Huzur Alam, Prayagu Mishra, Deepak Singh, Dhirendra Pratap Singh, Ankush Srivastava, Akash Srivastava, E Ahmad, Amit Kumar, Deepak Kumar and a roadways employee whose name was not mentioned.
Ten other deceased have not been identified.
Accidents are not uncommon on the high speed 165-km six-lane expressway, connecting Noida on Delhi's outskirts with Agra in Uttar Pradesh. Road safety experts have warned of the dangers of over speeding on the wide expressway, especially in early morning hours and at night.
As details came in of yet another accident on the high speed highway, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi were among the many who condoled the deaths and prayed for the speedy recovery of those injured.
"Pained by the bus accident in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones. I pray that those injured recover fast. The state government and local administration are providing all possible assistance to the affected," Modi said on Twitter.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath constituted a committee to go into the reasons behind the accident and submit its report early, Additional Chief Secretary, Information, Awanish Awasthi said.
"As per the district magistrate (Agra) 29 persons have died. The bus fell into a 'nallah' (drain)," he said.
Uttar Pradesh Roadways will pay an ex-gratia amount of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased, officials said.
The chief minister expressed his condolences and asked the Agra district magistrate and senior superintendent of police to ensure the injured get proper medical treatment, they said.
He sent his deputy Dinesh Sharma and Transport Minister Swatantra Dev Singh to the accident site by air.
The committee, comprising the transport commissioner, the Agra divisional commissioner and an inspector general of police, will investigate the incident in 24 hours, the chief minister directed.
It will give a report on the cause of the accident and also suggest long-term measures to avoid such accidents, Awasthi said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that Bharatiya Janata Party state general secretary Pankaj Singh went to the spot.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also expressed her grief. "Saddened to hear about the tragic loss of lives because of another bus accident, this time near Agra. My heartfelt condolences to the grieving families. I wish the injured a speedy recovery. Let us all follow #SafeDriveSaveLife," she said.
"I express my deepest condolences to the families of those who died in the accident. I wish for the speedy recovery of the injured," Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in a Facebook post.
His sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, said thinking about the families of those who have lost their kin makes her mind restless. "
May God give them the strength to bear the loss. I wish for the speedy recovery of those injured in the incident," she said in a tweet.