Hajipur (Bihar): The driver of a truck that ploughed into a religious procession killing at least eight people, including seven children, in Bihar's Vaishali district was rescued from the mangled vehicle and arrested, a senior police officer said on Monday.
The driver, who lost control of the speeding vehicle plying the Mahnar-Hajipur highway, was admitted to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) and efforts were underway to ascertain his identity, he said, adding his condition is stable.
After the accident took place in Hajipur on Sunday night, local RJD MLA Mukesh Roushan, who reached the spot, had claimed that 12 people were killed but police hadn't issued any official toll.
Talking to PTI on Monday, Vaishali Superintendent of Police (SP) Manish Kumar said, "A total of eight people, including seven children, were killed in the accident, while seven other critically injured people are undergoing treatment at Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) and PMCH."
"The driver was rescued from the mangled vehicle and arrested for negligent and rash driving. He is undergoing treatment in PMCH and his condition is stable," he said.
The accident took place in the Desri area, around 30 km from the state capital Patna, around 9 pm when some people gathered in front of a roadside peepal tree to offer prayers to the local deity 'Bhumiya Baba'.
The deceased and injured were in a procession that was taken out as part of a custom associated with marriage. A wedding was scheduled a few days later in the nearby Sultanpur village.
The speeding truck was moving through the adjacent Mahnar-Hajipur highway and the driver lost control of the vehicle.
The deceased were identified as Varsha (8), Suruchi (12), Anuskha (8), Shivani (8), Khushi (10), Chandan Kumar (20), Komal Kumari (10) and Satish Kumar (17). Further identification process is underway.
Roushan, the Mahua MLA, had earlier claimed that at least nine people died on the spot and three others succumbed to their injuries while being taken to hospitals.
President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the deaths.
Murmu extended her condolences to the bereaved families and wished for the speedy recovery of those injured.
Modi announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased, and Rs 50,000 to the injured people.
"The accident in Vaishali, Bihar is saddening. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon. An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh from PMNRF (Prime Minister's National Relief Fund) would be given to the next of kin of each deceased. The injured would be given Rs 50,000," the prime minister tweeted on Sunday night.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also expressed grief over the incident and directed the district administration to ensure proper treatment of the injured and speedy disbursement of compensation to the next of kin of the deceased as per the norms.
Meanwhile, after the incident, angry locals staged a protest alleging that police reached the spot after much delay.
"Initially villagers refused to let the police take the bodies for post-mortem examination. They finally agreed after senior officials of the district administration and police convinced them and distributed Rs 20,000 each to the next of kin of the deceased for the last rites," another police officer said.