At least 11 children have been killed and numerous others injured after a school bus was involved in an accident with a truck in a rural region of Northwest India on Monday, said police authorities.

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Initial reports indicate that the school bus, which was travelling along a rural, poorly maintained road near Jaheer village in the northwestern state of Punjab, collided with a truck that was carrying a load of bricks and was travelling at very slow speeds. There were approximately 30 school children on board the bus at the time of the accident, ranging in age from 5 years to 14 years, said a local senior police officer, Rajinder Singh.

Singh and other senior officers will be investigating the accident further. According to the Press Trust of India news agency, which gathered initial media reports regarding the accident, seven children were declared dead on the scene. The driver was also killed instantly in the accident. 18 other children were seriously injured and transported to local hospitals via ambulance. Four of the injured children later died of their injuries while in hospital, bringing the total death toll of the accident to 12.

Although preliminary investigations are underway, it is not yet clear what the cause of the accident was or whether either of the drivers were responsible for the accident. Police are currently searching for the as yet unidentified driver of the brick laden truck, who fled from the scene of the accident, said Singh. Singh urged any individuals who had knowledge of the truck driver’s whereabouts to please come forward.

India and its mountainous neighbors have some of the world’s deadliest roads. In India, more than 110 000 people are killed each year in road traffic related accidents. Of this number, the majority are killed in high fatality bus accidents such as this one. It is thought that the high fatality rates are due to overcrowded buses, poorly maintained roads and reckless driving by inexperienced or inadequately trained drivers.

India’s neighbor, Nepal, is also known for its dangerous roads. This accident comes just a week after 15 people were killed when a bus carrying a wedding party plunged off the road and into a ravine in rural Nepal. 25 people, including the bride and groom, were injured in the accident. It is thought that the driver of that bus, who was killed in the accident, had been drinking earlier in the evening.

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