At least 29 people were killed on Monday after a bus veered off India’s “highway to hell”, a label given to the road due to its poor safety record over the years.
The driver of the bus was suspected to have dozed off as the bus crashed into the railing and fell into a drain 12 metres down, leaving 29 people dead, and 18 others injured, some of them critically injured.
Every year, more than 150,000 people die on India’s roads, which are known for their poor safety design, as well as due to the recklessness of drivers.
The Yamuna expressway used to be India’s longest six-lane highway, being 165 kilometres long. However, since its opening in 2012, over 900 people have been killed in that highway alone according to authorities, causing the Indian media to dub it the “highway to hell”.
The bus, which is run by the state, was taking around 50 people from Lucknow, the capital city of the Uttar Pradesh state, all the way to Delhi, as the accident happened around 4.15am local time (0.45am GMT+2), over 20 kilometres outside of Agra, a city on the banks of the Yamuna River in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
As a result of the 12-metre fall, the roof of the bus was crushed, and as the bus landed in a drain, the running water in it made rescue efforts even more difficult, the police said.
People that are living in the nearby area were woken up by the crash, as they found the bus destroyed and submerged in dark water. One local told reporters that “We rushed out of our homes and saw people screaming for help. We got into the drain and tried to save some of them. Soon police arrived and quickly brought cranes.”
Plenty of victims were asleep whilst the driver lost control of the bus.
The State Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, ordered that an investigation is to be carried out on the crash and a cash compensation of 500,000 rupees (€6,400.75) for the families of each of the dead.
A government official, Awanish Awasthi, suggested that “long-term measures” to reduce the occurrences of such “mishaps” should be imposed.
India’s Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, labelled the latest accident as “heart wrenching”, expressing his condolences to all of the affected families.
Whilst the Yamuna expressway was seen as a symbol of modernity when it was first opened back in 2012, as it caused journey times from Delhi to the key region to be much shorter, authorities immediately admitted that there are crucial safety worries.
Over the course of 2017 alone, 763 crashes were reported on the highway, resulting in 145 deaths.
Indian roads are said to suffer from plenty of flaws in design, and this, added to the amount of speeding and drunk driving, make driving a daily risk, with there always being the chance of death.
Whilst the overall amount of road accidents in the country decreased over 2018, there was a significant increase in fatalities.
Initiatives taken by the government to reduce the amount of accidents have not been all too successful, as road safety campaigns have failed to change the behaviours of drivers. The total death toll in the country as a result of road crashes in 2017 was 147,913, which is more than 400 deaths every day on Indian roads.