India bus inferno kills 40; many burned alive

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Relatives of passengers wail outside the office of a private bus operator, Jabbar Travels in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh state, India, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 after their bus crashed into a highway barrier and erupted in flames early Wednesday. According to officials, many of the passengers were burned alive in the inferno in the accident. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — A bus crashed into a highway barrier in southern India and erupted in flames early Wednesday, killing at least 40 passengers — many of them burned alive in the inferno, officials said.

The driver and five others managed to escape through a window, said Girija Shankar, a district official. The other passengers, apparently asleep at the time of the crash, were trapped inside.

The privately operated bus was passing another vehicle when it crashed into the roadside barrier in Mehabubnagar in southern Andhra Pradesh state, said Deputy Inspector General of Police Naveen Kumar. The diesel tank then caught fire and engulfed the bus, according to Pradeep, a police official who goes by one name.

Authorities were questioning the survivors to get further details.

India has the highest annual road death toll in the world, according to the World Health Organization. More than 110,000 people are killed every year in road accidents across India, according to police.

Most crashes are blamed on reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles.

Wednesday's crash happened more than 800 miles (1,200 kilometers) from the Indian capital, New Delhi.