India bus crash inferno kills 44
An Indian man carries his luggage as he walks to board a bus at a bus station in Bangalore on January 25, 2010
The tragedy happened after the bus smashed into a central reservation on a highway between the cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad, piercing the fuel tank, said local police spokesman Venkateshwarlu.
"The number of dead, which includes children, is 44," Venkateshwarlu, who uses only one name, told AFP.
Out of 49 people on the bus, five, including the driver and the bus cleaner, broke windows and escaped before the flames engulfed the vehicle, killing the rest, police said.
"The driver and the cleaner tried to run, but the police caught them and they are now in our custody for questioning," said Venkateshwarlu, adding that the three other survivors had been admitted to a local hospital.
Media reports said that most of the passengers were asleep when the bus burst into flames about 140 kilometres (85 miles) from the southeastern city of Hyderabad, leaving them no time to scramble to safety.
Many of the victims were charred beyond recognition.
Around 140,000 people died in road accidents in India in 2012, according to the government's National Crime Records Bureau, which works out at 15 an hour.
Bad roads, speeding vehicles and poor driving are among the contributing factors, and bus crashes with a double-digit death toll are far from rare.
In May, at least 33 people died when an overcrowded bus skidded off a road into a fast-flowing river in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh.
At least 30 were killed earlier this month in the northeastern state of Assam when a heavy goods truck careered onto the wrong side of the road and smashed head-on into two packed vehicles.
The World Health Organization's global status report on road safety 2013 found that eight percent of India's road user deaths were bus drivers or passengers while 32 percent were riders of motorbikes or three-wheelers.
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