32 killed in Assam accidents

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Guwahati, May 31 (IANS): At least 32 people were killed in Assam when a bus plunged into a gorge and petrol tanker turned turtle and exploded, officials said Tuesday.

Twenty-eight people were killed and 10 had a miraculous escape when a bus, carrying a marriage party — the bridegroom, his family and friends, plunged into a gorge after hitting a wooden bridge around 11 p.m. Monday near Charabari village in Kamrup district, about 30 km from Assam`s main city of Guwahati.

The dead included the groom, his father, and other friends and relatives.

The bus was on its way from Guwahati to the bride`s house at Tihu in Nalbari district.

`The marriage rituals at the bride`s home in Tihu were to take place early Tuesday and the bus was on its way with the groom when the accident took place,` police official A. Das said.

`Initially, it was believed there were 43 people on board, but now after verification from the groom`s family it was found there were 38 people in the bus. Rescue workers and locals fished out 28 bodies, while 10 survived and are now in hospital,` Assam`s Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said after visiting the accident site.

According to witnesses, the driver failed to notice the wooden bridge without any railings or signposts and then straightway plunged into a deep gorge, about 40 feet from the road.

The Assam government has ordered an enquiry into the accident.

`We have already ordered an enquiry to find out as to why the wooden bridge had no railings or signposts alerting drivers about the bad condition of the bridge,` Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.

`Immediate steps are being taken to make a concrete bridge, besides statewide alert sounded to look for such vulnerable bridges that need urgent repair or attention,` he said.

Gogoi also announced Rs.100,000 for the next of kin of each of those killed and Rs.50,000 each to the six injured.

Local residents, however, alleged that district civil and police authorities failed to react urgently following the accident.

`The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was informed around 11 p.m. and they arrived at the accident site only around 7 a.m. Tuesday saying they don`t have night vision equipment and hence they came in the morning,` local community leader Bhabesh Bora told IANS.

`It is a shame the NDRF and other civil and police officials failed to react to such disasters.`

In the other incident late Monday, four people were burnt to death and 12 critically injured when a petrol-tanker turned turtle and exploded on a highway near Bokakhat in eastern Assam, about 250 km from Guwahati.

`After the tanker skidded off the road, there was a massive fire with several houses along the highway set ablaze with sleeping villagers charred,` police official B. Bora said.

Four people were charred beyond recognition, while 12 people were admitted to hospital with third degree burn injuries.

The fire raged for more than 10 hours and was brought under control around 10 a.m. Tuesday.

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