LAHORE - Three schoolchildren were killed and four others got seriously wounded when a bus plunged into a dry water-channel near Soay Aasil in the suburbs of Lahore, rescue workers said on Friday.

The accident happened after the careless driver lost his control while he was busy with his mobile phone. Eyewitnesses told the police that the bus, carrying some 60 to 70 schoolchildren, was moving towards Kasur district from Lahore when all of a sudden it plunged into a dry channel on Friday afternoon.

Two schoolboys died on the spot, while four were rushed to nearby hospitals in critical condition. Frightened children were screaming with injuries as the rescue workers reached the spot and launched the operation. “The rescuers shifted four seriously wounded children to the Lahore General Hospital where one of them expired later,” said a spokesperson for the Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122).

The condition of three injured boys was reported to be serious till late Friday. One of the deceased was identified as 10-year-old Ehtesham. Edhi ambulances also reached the spot and shifted two dead bodies to a nearby hospital in Central Park Housing Society. The identification of the other two kids, who also died in the accident, was yet to be ascertained.

However, the bus driver managed to escape from the crime scene. Police have registered a case against the driver and are making raids for his arrest. A private TV channel also reported that the principal of the school had been taken into custody.

On November 16, two teachers and five boys got wounded when a bus carrying schoolchildren on a trip struck a roadside tree at the Canal Road. Dozens of children were onboard when the bus hit a tree near Canal View Housing Society.

The police sources say that most of the drivers of public transport do not qualify for the job but they are driving heavy transport vehicles on the roads with impunity. On several occasions, the government launched crackdown against unfit buses and untrained drivers but the authorities have failed to ensure road safety measures for public transport. In 2011, more than three dozen schoolchildren lost their lives in an accident on the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway. The reckless driving and negligence on the part of school administration was blamed for the tragedy.

The over-loaded school bus was returning to Faisalabad from Kallar Kahar, after a picnic, when it overturned on the highway. Authorities rushed to sealing the school off in a bid to show action after the media flashed the irresponsibility behind the tragedy. Soon after making the headlines, the administration was allowed to reopen the school and no one was subjected to punishment for such a criminal negligence.

Police claimed to have nicked robbers

Police on Friday claimed to have smashed a gang of robbers by arresting its four members during a special crackdown launched against the elements involved in street crimes.

“We have also recovered seven motorcycles, 33 mobile phones, cash, and four pistols from their possession,” police officer, DSP Ghulam Abbas told reporters while addressing a news conference at his office on Friday. The arrested bandits were identified as Muzaffar Shabbir alias Bablo, Sajid Ali, Muhammad Imran, and Muhammad Azeem.

Responding to a question, DSP Ghulam Abbas said that during preliminary investigations the arrested bandits confessed to dozens of armed robberies which they had committed in different parts of the city. We have traced at least 52 cases of street crimes against the bandits, he said. Further investigations are underway.