This Article is From Aug 20, 2009

Mumbai: Kids caught in school bus fire


Shoes and abandoned schoolbags lie charred on a bus burnt to its very core. Forty young children were on their way to school when their bus exploded in flames after a short circuit. The accident took place at Panvel, two hours from  Mumbai.

The youngest children were seated near the front, so the driver could keep an eye on them. The others, none older than 14, managed to find their way to an emergency escape at the rear, and started climbing down the ladder there.

"Everyone was screaming. The driver uncle jumped out, I jumped out behind him," a young survivor said.

Not everyone was as lucky. Twenty two children were burnt, eight of them seriously. One teenager is fighting for his life in a local hospital, and parents sit shocked in the corridor near the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

One of those who lie seriously injured is Ankit Mohole. Her mother just stares back when asked her about him, then breaks down and walks away.

The police say the fire was parked by a short circuit, escalated by a fuel leak. The bus driver and the helper have been arrested and charged with negligence.

The bus and its staff had been hired by parents because they live in areas not covered by the school's official bus routes. But the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that even private buses have to follow basic guidelines if they're transporting children. First aid kits and fire extinguishers are a requirement on  buses, but it's not clear yet if this bus followed those norms.