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Overcrowded bus topples

A packed Behrampore-bound bus fell on its side on Lenin Sarani barely 10 minutes after it left Esplanade on Sunday afternoon apparently because of rash driving and a sideways slope along the tram tracks.

Victims said the 52-seater bus was ferrying more than 80 people. The passengers’ luggage was packed overhead.

It was around 2.30pm when, witnesseses said, the private bus lost control near Wellington Square in an attempt to overtake a government bus, scraped against a roadside tree and fell on its left side.

More than 50 passengers suffered fractures and cuts. One, Sheikh Ainul from Murshidabad’s Debagram, had to be admitted to hospital. “The multiple fractures in the right leg of Sheikh Ainul have to be fixed through surgery,” said Dibyendu Goutam, the superintendent of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, where the passenger has been admitted.

A preliminary probe by New Market police station revealed that both the rear right tyres of the bus had worn out and lacked the treads for grip. “The tyres were in poor shape and should have been replaced long ago. We will keep this in mind while prosecuting the owner for poor upkeep of the vehicle,” said an officer of the police station who visited the accident spot.

“I was sitting at the rear on the left side with my daughters Dilkhusha, 7, and Parvin, 2, when suddenly the bus swerved drastically to the left. Before we could realise anything, the bus toppled,” recalled Arshada Begum, in her early 50s, who was returning home after visiting her sister in Kidderpore. “I was clutching on to my daughters while people seated on the other side and their luggage fell on us.”

While witnesses blamed speeding and the slope on the road for the accident, many passengers felt overcrowding, too, was responsible. Picnic Garden resident Pronab Mondal, who fractured his left leg, said three-four people were sitting on seats meant for two. “It was chaos inside with people pushing and shoving and desperately trying to get out,” said the 40-year-old.

The bus was carrying many more passengers than usual because most Murshidabad-bound trains from Sealdah were cancelled on Sunday to facilitate the construction of a flyover at the Barrackpore level crossing.

“I generally travel home to Bethuadahari, in Nadia, by train. But today I had to take a bus as the trains on the route had been cancelled,” said Mohammed Amin Mollah, who suffered cuts on his face.

Traffic on Lenin Sarani was closed for an hour and a half till 4pm. Sealdah-bound traffic was diverted through Ganesh Chandra Avenue and Nirmal Chandra Street.

Abu Nakim Siddiqqui, 18, who was among the few who started rescue operations, said passengers were struggling to get out of the bus.

The Disaster Management Group stationed at the Police Training School near the Race Course reached the spot at 3.15pm, at least 15 minutes after the trapped passengers had been rescued by the local people and taken to hospital. Officers at the Lalbazar police headquarters admitted the team should have arrived by 2.50pm. “We will find out what led to the delay,” said an officer.

The bus was towed away around 3.40pm.