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Lanka tourists escape bus blaze

- Passports & personal belongings gutted in Kesariya

Motihari, March 24: Sixteen tourists from Sri Lanka had a providential escape today as the bus they had been travelling in was reduced to ashes.

According to witnesses, only one tourist, R.M. Somruna (50), who is also the team leader, sustained partial burn injuries.

While the tourists were busy climbing the Kesariya Stupa, the tallest such Buddhist stupa in the world, the bus parked outside the main entrance to the archaeological site suddenly caught fire around noon.

Although the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, a rough estimate has put the loss to be worth $1 million as personal belongings like suitcases, bags, passports and visa documents were charred completely.

Kesariya referral hospital medical officer P. Ojha, who is treating Somruna, a police officer in Sri Lanka, claimed that he was out of danger as he had sustained only 10 per cent burn injuries on his head.

The three staff members of the bus are also safe. The tourist bus (registration number UP 65BT 4877) was hired by the group from Gaya and after their pilgrimage to Vaishali, Kesariya and Kushinagar, they were to take a flight from Varanasi on Tuesday, said Kesariya police station house officer Santosh Kumar.

He added that it was first such incident near the stupa site, about 45km southwest from here and 110km northeast from Patna.

The fire was brought under control only after two fire tenders from Chakia and Motipur reached the spot.

SHO Kumar said arrangements for a safe stay of the visitors have been made at the local tourist rest house and a suitable vehicle would also be arranged by early tomorrow morning enabling them to reach Varanasi in time.