(Eds: Adding quotes, updating) Gwalior, Mar 23 (PTI) Twelve women and a man were killed after the auto-rickshaw in which they were traveling collided with a speeding bus in Old Chawni area of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday morning.
The accident took place around 5 am on Gwalior-Morena road when the bus driver apparently tried to avoid hitting a person on the road, said state Transport Minister Govind Singh Rajput while announcing an inquiry.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the incident in a tweet.
The women, who worked as cooks at an 'anganwadi kendra' (governemnt-run child care center) in Stone Park area in Old Chawni Ganga Malanpur locality, were returning home after work, Gwalior collector Kaushlendra Vikram Singh said.
They were supposed to travel in two auto-rickshaws, but one of them was out of order, so they crammed into one vehicle, he said.
While eight women and the auto-rickshaw driver died on the spot, the others succumbed to injuries in a hospital, district Superintendent of Police Amit Sanghi said.
Passengers in the bus, which was heading from Gwalior to Delhi, escaped unhurt, a senior official said, adding that the driver fled the spot leaving behind the vehicle.
The victims were residents of Gole ka Mandir and Jaderua areas in Gwalior.
'I am deeply pained by the death of 13 persons in an accident in Madhya Pradesh's Gwalior. I express my condolences to the kin of those killed and pray for the speedy recovery of those injured,' prime minister Modi tweeted.
He also approved ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured seriously from the prime minister's national relief fund, the PMO said.
Expressing grief, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced ex-gratia aid of Rs 4 lakh for the kin of the deceased.
Transport Minister Rajput said he had ordered an inquiry.
'It appears that the accident took place as the bus driver while trying to save a milkman hit the auto-rickshaw,' he said, adding that the bus had a valid fitness certificate, insurance certificate and its permit was valid till 2026.
Transport Commissioner Mukesh Jain, who reached the spot to conduct inquiry, clarified that the Gwalior RTO had not been suspended as probe was going on. 'Till we get the inquiry report, no action will be taken against any official,' he said.
Earlier, a report from Gwalior had said that RTO MPS Chouhan was suspended.
Rajya Sabha member and BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia and Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath also condoled the deaths.
The deceased were identified as Rachna Rathore (34), Sarita Rathore (37), Anita (37), Asha Rathore (45), Rajendri (40), Usha Jatav (37) Usha (45), Maya Devi (65), Harbobai (65), Munni Pal (55), Guddi (40), Laksmi (27) and Dharmendra Parihar (35), the auto driver, additional superintendent of police Pankaj Pande informed. PTI MAS COR KRK KRK