AMROHA, INDIA (BNO NEWS) — A bus which was returning from a religious ceremony for a child crashed into a tree in northern India on early Monday morning, killing fifteen people and injuring two dozen others, local authorities said on Tuesday. The bus driver fled the scene of the accident.
The accident happened at around 2 a.m. local time on Monday when the bus went off the road and slammed into a tree near the town of Amroha, which is located in the northwestern area of India’s Uttar Pradesh state. The bus had been rented by an extended family to attend a religious ceremony.
Police said thirteen passengers died at the scene of the accident while two others later succumbed to their injuries after being rushed to a local hospital, raising the overall death toll to fifteen. Twenty-four others were injured, including several who were seriously injured and remained in critical condition on Tuesday.
The bus, which was overloaded as it was carrying about 60 people, was traveling from the Hindu holy town of Haridwar to the village of Kamalpura in Sambal District. They were returning from a so-called mundana ceremony during which a baby is given the first hair cut to ‘purify’ the child from undesirable traits from past lives.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known, and police were searching for the bus driver who had fled the scene.
India, the world’s second most populous nation with more than 1.2 billion citizens, is often the scene of deadly road accidents, many of which are attributed to reckless driving, aging vehicles and overloading. In new figures released in 2010, India overtook China to top the world in road fatalities.
Earlier this month, a tour bus plunged off a bridge in central India, killing 32 people and injuring 21 others. The privately-owned bus was returning from a pilgrimage to the Shirdi Saibaba Temple in the Ahmednagar district, but the cause was not immediately known. Some of the passengers alleged the bus driver, who survived the accident, may have been tired or intoxicated.
And just days earlier, twenty-four people were killed when a truck carrying sacks of salt overturned near Sanand, a municipality in the district of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat. The sacks of salt, which weigh around 20 kilograms (44 pounds) each, fell on top of dozens of people who were sleeping on top of them. The truck driver fled the scene before emergency services arrived.
According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, approximately 120,000 people are killed in road accidents across the country each year, although the actual figure is believed to be higher. Deaths as the result of road accidents account for up to 40 percent of the country’s deaths due to unnatural causes.