Hassan (Karnataka), July 23: Eight people, including a college girl, met a watery grave Tuesday when a state-run bus skidded off a bridge and plunged into a lake near Belaur in Karnataka, police said.
Fifty-nine passengers were rescued, a senior police official said. Among the dead were the conductor, Vishwanath, and the college girl, Vivian Pinto, while the driver escaped with injuries.
"The accident occurred when the crowded state-run (KSRTC) bus plunged into the Vishnu Samudra lake, one kilometer from Belur and about 50 km from here," Inspector General of Police Ramachandra Rao told IANS.
Hassan is about 200 km away from Bangalore, the state capital.
The bus, which left Sakleshpur, was proceeding to Belur, about 40 km away, packed with passengers when the accident happened as its driver tried to avoid colliding with a bike and swerved to left, crashing into the bridge railings and plunging into the lake.
The lake was filled to the brim with rain water.
Hassan Superintendent of Police Ravi D. Channanvar said of the estimated 70-72 passengers in the bus, at least three-to-five were still missing and rescue operations were on to trace them or their bodies.
"Of the 59 rescued by fishermen and villagers, 35 have been shifted to the district hospital at Hassan and 24 are being treated at a hospital in Belur," he said.
Rao said: "Attempting to avoid a head-on collision, the driver swung the bus to extreme left, lost balance and plunged into lake. The toll could rise."
The twin temple towns of Belaur-Halebid are a famous religious and tourist spot in the state as they were the capital of the Hoysala kingdom during the 12th century.
Karnataka Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy announced Rs.3-lakh ex-gratia to the families of the victims and assured the injured that the government would bear their medical expense for treatment.
The rescue and relief operations were hampered as hundreds of people from nearby villages thronged the spot to see the site of the mishap.