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Scores of children killed in bus crash

Latest update : 2008-04-16

A public bus plunged off a bridge in the state of Gujarat in western India, killing at least 44 schoolchildren and three adults, including the driver. Local villagers said several children drowned before rescue teams arrived on the scene.

A bus veered off a bridge and plunged into a canal in western India on Wednesday, killing at least 44 school children and three adults, police said.

Their bodies have been recovered, but some children were still missing, said R.K. Patel, a senior police officer in Gujarat state. Four children were rescued.

The accident occurred in Vadodara, about 90 km (55 miles) southwest of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's main city.

The public bus was carrying more than 60 children and some passengers from three villages in the region, officials added.

They said the driver lost control after one of the tyres burst and ploughed through a concrete railing on the bridge, plunging the bus into the canal.

"I was sitting in the last seat and suddenly I felt the bus going down," said Sunil Thakore, 13.

"I could see everything floating outside, and tried to call but there was no one around. I tried to pull my friend along, but it was impossible for me to swim with him."

The driver of the bus, an assistant and a woman were among the dead, police said.

Angry villagers said many children could have been saved if rescue operations started in time.

"For two hours I could see bodies floating in the canal, but nobody came to help us and all we could do was cry and scream for help," said Rambhai Thakore, a villager from Bamroli, which lost 15 girls in the accident.

Hundreds of villagers at Bamroli joined grieving parents to mourn the deaths and blamed local authorities for the accident.

"Children were screaming for help, some were struggling to swim but all of them died in front of our eyes," Dharaji, a woman who lost her two daughters in the accident said.

"They promised to perform well in their exams but they died on their way to school," Dharaji, who goes by one name said.

Television pictures showed grieving parents trying to identify their children from among rows of bodies laid out by the canal.

"My daughter was going for her last examination today," Bhikiben, one of the bereaved mothers, told Reuters Television.

"She was very happy that her holidays were to begin, but now everything has ended for her," she said as authorities prepared to take her daughter's body to a local hospital.

Rescuers used boats and officials said divers were looking for more bodies in the canal.

Many anxious parents, uncertain if their children were on the bus, were also seen rummaging through school bags recovered from the water to see if these belonged to their children.

Date created : 2008-04-16