44 killed, 12 missing as bus carrying children plunges into canal

April 16th, 2008 - 8:34 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi
(Third Lead)

Ahmedabad, April 15 (IANS) Forty-four people including 32 schoolgirls and nine schoolboys died when a bus carrying them plunged into the main irrigation canal off the Narmada river in central Gujarat Wednesday morning. Searches were on to trace 12 passengers still missing. The accident occurred at around 6 a.m., when the Gujarat state road transport bus carrying about 50 students from Vag-Bhod village was on its way to Bodeli, a tribal dominated area 70 km from Vadodara, according to Vadodara fire brigade officials.

The children were going to appear for an examination, which has now been cancelled by the district education officer. Five children survived the accident, four of whom managed to swim to safety. They were admitted to Vadodara civil hospital.

Sources told IANS that no help reached the victims for nearly one-and-a-half hours after the mishap. They said locals recovered nine bodies soon after the accident. The other bodies were found with the help of the fire brigade personnel. Many bodies had floated downstream, away from the accident site.

The bodies of nine boys, 32 girls and three adults had been recovered, government spokesperson Jainarayan Vyas said.

The bus was carrying students from the villages of Samadhi, Patana, Bamroli, Fofaliya, Garod, Salpura and Totarmata. The bodies of the students had been handed over to the families after post-mortem and the bus was lifted out of the canal, he said.

Authorities stopped the water flow in the Narmada canal, which was gushing 40,000 cusecs, to help the rescue operations.

Twenty-four of the dead children were from Navjivan school while 18 were students of Sirola school and two were enrolled in Maa Bhagwati school in Vag-Bhod.

While those dead included the driver and the conductor of the bus, 12 students were reported missing till evening.

Bamroli village, which lost 15 of its children in the mishap, observed a shutdown.

Home Minister Amit Shah and Water Supply Minister Nitin Patel visited the site of the accident and supervised rescue operations.

In its weekly meeting, the state cabinet condoled the death of the students.

The government constituted a high-level committee to probe the mishap. Principal Secretary of Transport and Ports H.K. Das will head the inquiry team.

Vyas said Rs.100,000 would be given to the family of each of the deceased students in addition to the insurance money under a government scheme that insured the students.

District authorities announced a reward of Rs.21,000 to a villager who saved four kids. As immediate relief each family was being given Rs.2,000.

The opposition criticised the Narendra Modi government, terming the relief insufficient.

“It is insulting to the memory of the dead to announce a paltry Rs.100,000 ex-gratia. Each family must be given Rs.500,000,” said Nalin Bhatt, general secretary of Bahujan Samaj party (BSP) and former minister.

The state government was responsible for the deaths since the bus belonged to the government organisation, he said.

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