Calcutta, Dec. 6: A private bus, with 50 passengers trapped inside, was set on fire by a mob after it ran over a cyclist and fell into a ditch in Howrah this morning.
Three passengers received burn injuries and passed out because of the noxious fumes. Eleven others were wounded when the bus fell into the ditch after the driver lost control.
The bus on a long-distance route was trying to overtake another when it ran over Haren Bera, a 39-year-old cyclist on his way to the market, Howrah superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said.
“Bera was hit by the bus when he was trying to cross the road,” Kumar added.
As the bus fell into a ditch, the driver opened the cabin door and fled. But the passengers were trapped inside, screaming for help. A crowd gathered immediately — at 7.15 am, the market near Mankur More at Shyampur was humming with people — but instead of rescuing the passengers, it started pelting stones at the overturned bus. The passengers inside, none of them a local resident, panicked and tried to shut the windows.
The stone-pelting continued for a few minutes, till someone opened the fuel tank and another member of the mob lit a match-stick and threw it in.
As the bus was set on fire, most of the injured passengers managed to scramble out. “But three were trapped inside,” a witness said, adding that their pleas to spare the bus fell on deaf ears.
Some bystanders finally stepped in and doused the flames with water from the ditch. When the three trapped passengers were brought out, they were unconscious. The passengers were taken to a nearby health-centre and kept under observation after their wounds had been treated.
The crowd, however, had not had enough. They blocked the road for 30 more minutes. “No one came forward to identify the mischief-makers and people were surprisingly unrepentant later,” a Howrah police official said.
Traffic on Howrah Bridge was disrupted for more than three hours on Friday night after a car collided with a horse being brought from Bangalore to Fort William for a show. Police detained the driver and seized the car. The horse was taken to Fort William for treatment.
Normal traffic was restored around 10 pm, police said.