AT LEAST 50 people were killed and 10 others suffered serious injuries when a state transport-run bus plunged into a 30-foot-deep gorge near Jagtial town in Telangana on Tuesday, officials said. The ghat road, where the accident happened, had been declared accident prone and unsafe by the police earlier.
The Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) bus, carrying around 60 passengers, was traveling towards Jagtiyal town from Kondagattu temple, located atop a hill, when the vehicle reportedly skidded off the ghat road while negotiating a sharp turn, Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) G Narendra said.
The driver reportedly lost control of the vehicle “either due to brake failure or some fault. Twenty-three passengers died on the spot, while around 25 others were shifted to hospitals in serious condition with severe head injuries,” the RDO said.
“The accident took place about 10 km from Jagtial on the ghat road…We mobilised ambulances from nearby hospital and reached the spot within 30 minutes. Most of the passengers had suffered serious head injuries, and many succumbed on way to the hospital,” he said. The injured have been shifted to Karimnagar government hospital, he added.
The caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has announced compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of the dead and has assured free treatment to the injured.
“Eyewitnesses told me that passengers sensed something was wrong when the bus driver first failed to apply the brakes at a speed breaker and hit an auto rickshaw. When instead of stopping, the bus picked up speed as it neared a bend, they started screaming…The driver made frantic efforts to slow down by pumping on the brake pedal repeatedly,” the officer said.
He added that eyewitness had also claimed that the driver, N Srinivas, had warned the passengers that something was wrong with the vehicle just before the bus crossed the bend and rolled over into the gorge. Srinivas was also killed in the accident.
According to official sources, the police had advised heavy vehicles and those carrying passengers to avoid the accident-prone ghat road and instead use an alternate route — via Nachupally and Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Hyderabad (JNTUH, Jagtial) to Kondagattu temple road, which is eight kilometre longer and does not have a ghat section. Some drivers, however, continued to use the ghat road as there is traffic on this route, especially on Tuesdays — as the temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
Jagtial Bus Depot manager, D Tirupathi, told The Indian Express that buses started using the ghat section only two months ago. “The number of people visiting the temple had increased and we are running about 100 trips daily. The usual route, to and from the temple, is via JNTUH, but recently we told the bus drivers they could use the ghat road while coming down to save time, if there is a lot of traffic on the other route,” he said.
Calling the accident a result of “criminal negligence”, Congress MLA from Jagtial, T Jeevan Reddy, has demanded a judicial inquiry into the accident. “TSRTC buses are not supposed to use this road, but the Jagtial bus depot authorities asked drivers to use it to cut down on time and distance and increase revenue by picking up more passengers on the ghat road,” he said.