At least 36 people were killed after a packed bus crashed through the railing of a bridge and fell into a canal in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district on Monday morning. The accident occurred at Balirghat under the Daulatabad police station area around 6 am when the North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) bus was going from Shikarpur in Nadia district to Malda, police said.
“Bus has been lifted, total 36 dead bodies were fished out. For the time being, we have wind up the rescue operation but search will be carried out again tomorrow “, SP Murshidabad Mukesh Kumar told the Indian Express. As per officials the death includes two children.
Alleging delay in rescue operations, angry local people set a police vehicle on fire and vandalised two others. Police lobbed tear gas shells and also resorted to lathicharge to control the situation.
Terming the incident as “sad”, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia for the next of the kin of the deceased.
“A speeding bus with 56 people on board fell into Gobraghat canal. The bus was going to Malda from Karimpur in Nadia via Murshidabad. The accident happened at Daulatabad while crossing the Balighat Bridge. Rescue operations are on,” said a senior police official.
Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari along with other officials rushed to the spot on a helicopter on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s instructions.
“The water was too deep, it was difficult to lift the bus using a small crane, so initially there was a little delay but police administration and our local people took responsibility and initiated rescue operation as fast as they could. Big and hydraulic cranes have reached the spot. A rescue operation is on at full speed. Chief Minister is personally keeping a watch,” said Adhikari.
Some passengers who were rescued told reporters that the driver of the bus was talking on the phone while driving. “The bus driver was talking on mobile phone and was handling the steering wheel using only his left hand, and suddenly it rammed into the railing of the bridge and fell into the bus,” the passengers said.
Saumik Hossain, Youth Trinamool Congress leader, Murshidabad, however, said: “The accident occurred due to fog. Initially, some people tried to create a problem but the situation is now under control.” Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had also reached the spot.
“The Chief Minister only does ‘safe drive save life’ campaign but the real picture is completely different. The state government even takes toll tax for the bridge where the accident took place. How bad the maintenance could be that the bus broke the railing and fell into the canal. We want an inquiry and proper investigation on how this accident took place. I am rushing to Behrampore,” Chowdhury told a TV channel.
So far, four people have been rescued while a few swam to safety themselves. Several rescue boats have been pressed into action.