At least 53 killed as bus veers off mountain road in India's Jammu-Kashmir state

Rescuers pulled 53 bodies from the wreckage of an overcrowded bus that veered off a steep mountain road in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Friday, police said.

The bus was negotiating a steep curve near the town of Sainganji when it fell 120 meters (400 feet) into a gorge, said J.P. Singh, a police superintendent. Sainganji is around 190 kilometers (120 miles) northwest of Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state.

Villagers and police were helping to pull survivors from the wreckage of the bus, which had around 70 people on board, Singh said. The bus only had seats for 50 people, he said.

"We have pulled out 53 bodies from the wreckage. And there are at least 15 people in hospital, whose condition has been described as critical by doctors," Singh said in a telephone interview from the scene of the accident. The bodies were laid out along the road and were to be taken by ambulance to the nearby town of Rajouri, reports the AP.

Road accidents claim thousands of lives every year in India, and most are blamed on reckless driving, aging vehicles and poor roads. Many passenger buses in far-flung areas are rickety and poorly maintained, and are often overcrowded.

A.M.