At least 45 dead after overcrowded bus plunges into canal in MP

By Express News Service
BHOPAL: A bus with more than 50 passengers on board plunged into a canal in Rampur Naikin area in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district early in the morning on Tuesday, killing 45 people. 

While 37 bodies have been retrieved from the bus, seven more bodies were retrieved from the canal. One woman, who was rescued, died in the hospital. Six more people were rescued or swam to safety.

Among the dead was a four-year-old child. Sixteen young women who died in the tragedy were heading to Satna district to appear in the Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) exam.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan postponed all major events in the state capital, including the virtual house warming of one lakh beneficiaries of the PM Housing Scheme in Bhopal (which was to be attended through video conferencing by Union home minister Amit Shah also) and the state cabinet meeting too was postponed. The CM, who reportedly also postponed the events for Wednesday also, including his Damoh district tour, announced Rs 5 lakh assistance to the kin of each of the deceased.

A sum of Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia each to the kin of each of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured has been announced out of the PM Relief Fund, official sources said.

While maintaining that those found wanting in the mishap won’t be spared, the CM said two ministers, including cabinet minister Tulsi Silawat and minister of state Ram Khelawan Patel, have been sent to the accident site from Bhopal for taking stock of the situation at Ground Zero.

The accident happened in Sarda Patna village at around 8 am, when the private bus with around 50 passengers plunged into the canal which draws water from the Bansagar Dam that supplies water to UP and Bihar.

Bus took alternative route due to prolonged traffic jam on main route

According to informed sources, the bus regularly travelled through the hilly Chhuiya Ghati highway main route connecting Sidhi and Satna districts. But owing to prolonged traffic jams on the Chhuiya Ghati hilly road for the last three-four days, the bus took an alternative route through Baghwar area and while going at high speed plunged into the canal from the bridge at around 8 am.

While seven persons swam to safety with the help of villagers, others either remained stuck in the 32-seater bus or else went missing in the canal, which had a high water current.

With the CM directing to stop the flow of water into the canal from Bansagar Dam (located in Shahdol district), the rescue operations which began at around 8.45 am, could gather momentum at around 9.30 am. SDRF and Home Guards teams were pressed into action from Sidhi and adjoining districts, a NDRF team from Varanasi (UP), which was already camping in MP’s Sidhi district too rushed to the spot and started rescue operations at around 9.30 am.

With the NDRF team joining rescue operations, the bus was extracted at around 11.30 am from the canal, where the flow of water had toned down, due to stopping of water release from the dam.

“Till 2 pm, as many as 37 bodies have been retrieved from the canal and the bus, while a search is underway for the other missing people, whose number isn’t known,” an NDRF source who is part of the rescue operations told The New Indian Express.

According to official sources, the bus which had a capacity to carry 32-34 passengers had around 50 passengers on board. With 37 bodies already retrieved and seven persons swimming to safety, four to five persons could still be missing in the canal.

According to MP transport minister Govind Singh Rajput, “I’m meeting the CM to brief him about the conditions on ground. The permit of the bus has been terminated, as it had taken an alternative route of seven km. The state’s transport commissioner has been tasked with conducting a thorough probe into the matter and the additional transport commissioner has been sent to the spot.”