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Bus inferno in southern India kills 45 passengers

People gathered near the remains of a bus that crashed and caught fire in southern India. Seven people escaped.
People gathered near the remains of a bus that crashed and caught fire in southern India. Seven people escaped.EPA/STR

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HYDERABAD, India — A packed bus crashed into a highway barrier and burst into flames Wednesday in southern India, killing 45 passengers who were locked inside the cabin after the driver escaped, officials said.

The driver, a bus cleaner, and five passengers managed to escape through a window in the front of the overnight bus, according to the transportation minister of southern Andhra Pradesh state, Botsa Satyanarayana.

The other passengers were trapped inside the sleeper bus, which had an automatic locking system that could be controlled by the driver, said local police official Pradeep, who goes by one name.

Only three of the 45 charred bodies could be identified, state Information Minister D.K. Aruna said. ‘‘Authorities are gathering the DNA samples from the bodies’’ to use in identifying the rest, he said.

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