( dpa ) - At least 41 people were killed and 34 injured when an overcrowded bus carrying Hindu devotees fell into a deep gorge in India's western state of Maharashtra, officials said Monday.
The accident occurred when the bus returning from the Saptashringi shrine skidded off the road in the western Nasik district late Sunday night.
"The passenger bus fell more than 180 metres after the driver lost control of the vehicle," Deepak Tillu, a policeman at the Nasik police control room told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
The bus was carrying 75 passengers who were on their way back to the state capital Mumbai after visiting the temple.
"Several people died on the scene as the bus hit the ground with great impact and broke in two parts," Tillu said, adding the victims included 12 women and four children.
Police blamed the driver for the accident. "The driver said the bus's brakes failed while he was negotiating a sharp bend. But it appears that it could have been an error on his part - he was behind the wheel for nearly four days," Tillu said.
The wounded were admitted to state-run hospitals in and around the city where doctors said the death-toll could go up as the condition of some passengers was critical.
Meanwhile, the local administration said that it had concluded rescue operations at the site located more than 250 kilometres north of India's financial hub of Mumbai.
In October, 42 Hindu pilgrims returning from a shrine were killed when their bus fell into a river in northern Uttarakhand state. A month earlier, 85 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a road crash in India's north-western state of Rajasthan.
India has one of the worst road-safety records in the world and registers the highest number of road fatalities after China.
According to the International Road Federation, a leading body for the road industry worldwide, more than 95,000 lives are lost every year in India in road crashes.
The worldwide annual figure for fatalities on the road stands at 10.2 million. Poorly maintained roads and vehicles, lack of road safety measures and violations of traffic rules are blamed for India's rash of accidents.