More than 24 children were killed when a school bus carrying them collided with a truck in Uttar Pradesh's Etah district on Thursday. Photo Courtesy:- (NAND KUMAR)

In a sad tragedy, at least 24 children were feared dead and other 30 children were injured when a school bus collided with a truck in Aliganj area of Etah district of Uttar Pradesh (UP), some 255 km from Lucknow on Thursday morning. The driver of the school bus also died in the crash.

The victims have been identified as students of J S Vidyaniketan Public School in Aliganj of Etah district. Over three dozen wounded students were rushed to a nearby nursing home where they are being treated. The incident is the latest in the country that has a poor track record of road safety.

“At least 10 school children with grievous injuries have been taken to a super speciality hospital in Saifai while others with less serious injuries have been sent to hospitals in Aligarh and Agra districts,” the district magistrate of Etah said to media persons.

According to reports, Thursday morning around 9 am, the bus of J S Vidyaniketan Public School was carrying more than 50 students to school when it collided with a sand-filled lorry. The crash, which took place amid dense fog near Asadpur village in aliganj area of etah district (UP). when the two vehicles collided head on, the truck was being driven at a high speed. The children, aged between three and 12, were studying at a school in the town of Etah.

The impact of the accident was such that the truck fell off the road. (Photo Courtesy:- India Today)

District Magistrate of Etah, Shambunath said, “the school bus and the truck were traveling at a high speed and low visibility due to dense fog could have caused the collision.”

The bus was so badly damaged in the morning catastrophe that the rescuers and saviours had to use gas cutters and crane to pull out the bruised bodies and injured children. Over 60 people were travelling in the 42 seater bus. Some of the corpses could only be recognised using their school identity cards.

Due to cold and foggy weather, Etah district administration had ordered all schools in the district to remain closed until January 20, but why the school (J S Vidyaniketan Public School) had stayed open? Director general of Uttar Pradesh police, Javeed Ahmed said district administration would check the matter.

“School was open against the order of district administration to close schools due to cold. 15 children died. Priority is to rescue trapped children. Rescue operation is underway. Strict action will be taken against the school,” said Javeed Ahmed, director general of police in Uttar Pradesh.

After the incident, Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has guided his elder officials to visit the accident spot and assure that hospitals render free treatment to the wounded children. District Magistrate, SSP, Aliganj CO and other officials also visited the spot and government hospital where the victims were brought.

The cause of the crash is not known yet. However, local reports, which cited witnesses, said that thick fog due to the cold weather is likely to be the reason behind the accident.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee expressed their condolences over the accident on Twitter.

“Anguished by the tragic accident in UP’s Etah district. I share the pain of the bereaved families & condole passing away of young children,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

Road accidents are common on Indian roads, with most blamed on reckless driving (many of these incidents were due to drunk driving), ageing vehicles and poorly maintained roads.

According to the latest government data, in 2015, an average of 1,374 traffic accidents a day as well as 400 people were killed every day on roads. In total, 150,000 people died that year in such incidents. Traffic-related deaths now increased 4.6 percent to 146,133 in 2015, from 139,671 in 2014, according to the country’s transport and highways ministry.