22 killed, 12 injured in sightseeing bus accident in northern India

Friday, January 7, 2011

LUCKNOW, India -- A sightseeing bus overturned and plunged into a gorge, killing 22 Indian tourists and injuring 12 others who were visiting a town at the foot of the Himalayas, officials said Thursday.

Among the 22 killed were 13 children, said Mahendra Singh Tamta, spokesman for Uttarakhand state in northern India. Four of 12 people hospitalized were in serious condition.

The private bus was one of eight hired to take Haridwar city traders on a picnic in Mussoorie, a popular tourist town surrounded by green hills and snowy mountains about 20 miles from the state capital, Dehradun.

The bus was carrying 52 people back to Haridwar late Wednesday when it flipped over at a curve in the road and rolled down the gorge, landing upside down, Tamta said.

Using ropes and a ladder, local villagers and government rescue officials climbed down into the gorge, where they worked for hours to bring up the injured and dead.

The driver fled the scene but was arrested Thursday, Tamta said. A witness said passengers had asked the driver to slow down before the crash, he said.

Shops in Haridwar were closed Thursday as the city mourned the dead.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokheriyal visited the injured at Dehradun's hospital and pledged to give each $1,000. He said the families of those killed would receive twice that amount.

Mussoorie, also known as Queen of the Hills, sits at an altitude of 6,170 feet (1,880 meters).

India, the second most populous nation, has the world's highest annual road death toll, according to the World Health Organization.

More than 110,000 people die each year across the country in crashes caused by speeding, bad roads, overcrowding and poor vehicle maintenance, according to police.

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