India Bus Crash Inferno Kills 16

Some 16 people died when a bus carrying Muslim pilgrims exploded in a ball of fire after colliding head-on with a truck in northern India, according to officials.

A passenger bus burns

Some 16 people died when a bus carrying Muslim pilgrims exploded in a ball of fire after colliding head-on with a truck in northern India, according to officials.

The bus, which was en route to the Muslim shrine of Ajmer Sharif, slammed into a truck parked on a road near Bahraich town, 105 kilometres (65 miles) from the Uttar Pradesh state capital Lucknow on Friday, district officials said.

"Sixteen people died in the blaze that followed the impact of the collision between the bus and the truck," Bahraich district magistrate Kinjal Singh told AFP.

Two of the dead were babies while 19 other people were injured in the crash.

The bus erupted in flames after it crashed, leading to police to suspect that cooking gas cylinders carried by the passengers were to blame for the explosion.

"Many bodies were completely charred. We recovered 14 bodies and the remains of two infants from under the debris of the completely charred bus," Singh said.

Witnesses told India's NDTV news channel that the flames made it impossible for the bus passengers to escape.

Rescuers worked through the night using gas cutting torches to reach victims in the blackened, twisted metal wreck.

India has the highest annual road death toll in the world, according to the World Health Organization, with accidents caused by speeding, careless driving and poor roads.

About 126,000 people, or 345 a day, died on the country's roads in 2010, the latest statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau show.