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31 killed when bus falls into gorge in northeastern India

TONGSENG, INDIA (BNO NEWS) -- More than 30 people were killed Wednesday when a crowded passenger bus veered off a road and plunged into a deep gorge in northeastern India, police officials said. More than two dozen people were injured, some of them critically.

The accident occurred on early Wednesday morning on a dangerous mountain road in Tongseng, a village located in the East Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya state. The bus was coming from Guwahati, the largest city in neighboring Assam state, and was heading to Agartala in Tripura state with at least 58 people on board.

Police said the driver of the passenger bus lost control when taking a turn on the Assam-Agartala highway, causing the vehicle to roll down a hill and fall into a gorge around 100 meters (328 feet) deep. The small road is often the scene of accidents, claiming many lives each year.

Authorities said 27 people died at the scene of the accident while 4 others died after being rushed to a hospital, raising the total number of fatalities to 31, including the bus driver. Another 27 people were injured in the accident, including a number of people who remained in a critical condition.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the accident.

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.

In June, 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 survivors 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.

(Copyright 2012 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: sales@bnonews.com.)

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