At least 35 were killed — including 11 children — when a bus fell into a roadside pond in Bihar's Madhubani district on Monday. Around 65 passengers were on board and according to PTI, some of them swam to safety while over a dozen were feared to have been killed.
The death toll, however, was not consistent and while news agencies like PTI and ANI claimed 35 died, other publications said 32 were killed. The private bus was on the way to Sitamarhi from Madhubani when the mishap took place on the state highway. The accident took place at Basaitha Chowk under Bennipatti Police station in Madhubani, about 50 km from the district headquarters. Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Benipatti Nirmala Kumari said four bodies were fished out so far and search is on for others.
The bus was pulled out of the pond with a crane.
According to the police, more than 5,000 people from neighbouring villages gathered at the accident site. Angry over the alleged delay on the part of local administration to start rescue operations, a group of people staged protest and pelted stones at district officials, including the vehicle of the district magistrate. The superintendent of police and other policemen were stranded at the accident site and waiting for police reinforcement to reach the spot.
Even as rescue operations are on and locals and divers are looking for those missing, police said many could be still trapped. "The bus is not visible. It is completely submerged in water and with passage of time, the chances of survival of the travellers were declining sharply," an officer told The Times of India.
According to Hindustan Times, 13 passengers were rescued.
The accident and delay in rescue operations sparked a mob fury. villagers angry over delay in reaching of crane pelted stones on police team on way to the accident spot. The SP and other policemen are stranded at the accident site and waiting for police reinforcement to reach the spot. Madhubani district magistrate Giriwar Dayal Singh told Hindustan Times that 19 police officials and members of the state and national disaster response forces were injured and five of their vehicles destroyed by the mobs.
In Patna, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed deep sorrow and said in a statement that reason of the accident was being looked into. He instructed officials to speed up relief and rescue operation. Kumar instructed revenue minister Madan Mohan Jha and panchayati raj minister Kapildeo Kamat to rush to the accident spot.
— Nitish Kumar (@NitishKumar) September 19, 2016
The chief minister also issued instruction to provide assistance to the victims. Besides, Nitish also directed for payment of ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the family members of those killed in the incident. Apart from district magisrate and superintendent of police, Darbhanga divisional commissioner RK Khandelwal, Darbhanga inspector-general Umashankar Sudhanshu and other senior police and civil officials of Madhubani and Sitamarhi were camping at the spot along with Benipatti MLA Bhavna Jha.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too expressed deep sadness over the bus mishap.
Deeply saddened by the bus accident in Bihar’s Madhubani district. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief: PM
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) September 19, 2016
The prime minister aside, President Pranab Mukherjee and prominent politicians also tweeted their condolences.
Heartfelt condolences on loss of lives in the bus accident in Madhubani district of Bihar today #PresidentMukherjee
— President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) September 19, 2016
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) September 19, 2016
Very sad to know of the Madhubani bus mishap. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. May God give them strength.
— Vasundhara Raje (@VasundharaBJP) September 19, 2016
Saddened by the bus accident in Madhubani. My thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families.
— Harsimrat Kaur Badal (@HarsimratBadal_) September 19, 2016
#मधुबनी बस हादसे में अभी तक २५ शव निकाले जा चुके हैं ।अत्यंत
दुखद दुर्घटना है। मेरी संवेदना सभी मृतक परिवारों के साथ है
— Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) September 19, 2016
With inputs from agencies