New Delhi. Fifty people died when a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims plunged into a valley in southern India on Tuesday, one of the deadliest accidents on the country's notorious roads in recent years.
Road crashes in India claim the lives of more than 150,000 people each year. Most accidents are blamed on poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.
The bus carrying 80 people was returning from the famous Hindu temple of Kondagattu Anjaneya Swamy in the hilly southern state of Telangana when it skidded off the road.
Broken glass, slippers and luggage lay scattered next to lifeless bodies that were lined up at the scene, as locals pulled out survivors from the mangled vehicle.
They then carried them uphill to get medical attention.
Some rescuers climbed onto the bus and others tried to reach the injured through the front portion which was completely smashed.
"More than half of those killed were women, and there were at least three children," local official G. Narendhar told AFP.
Broadcaster NDTV quoted witnesses as saying the driver was speeding and lost control of the vehicle. The Hindu daily said it careened off the road on a sharp corner.
"We have pulled out the bodies and we are taking them to the hospital for autopsy," B. Rajesham, another official, told AFP.
An investigation has been ordered.
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao expressed shock and announced 500,000 rupees ($7,000) each for the families of the deceased.
Tuesday is considered an auspicious day by Hindus, and there was a heavy rush of devotees to the temple.
On July 28 a bus carrying university workers plunged off a mountain road into a valley in western India, killing 33 people.
That vehicle was taking staff from the Dapoli Agriculture University to a popular hill station in the state of Maharashtra for a picnic.
The same month 48 people were killed and many others badly injured in the north of the country when an overcrowded bus hurtled into a gorge in the Himalayan foothills. (AFP)