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A truck struck a group of labourers sleeping under a parked bus on the side of a highway in northern India, killing at least 18 people and injuring 24, police said Wednesday.

The accident occurred overnight in Barabanki, 30 kilometres northeast of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.

Authorities said the bus had broken down while on its route to the northern state of Bihar, prompting the driver to park it on the side of the highway.

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The majority of the victims, many of whom were labourers returning home, were sleeping under the double-decker bus when the truck slammed into it.

“The collision was so bad that 16 people died on the spot while two others succumbed to their injuries in the hospital,” said senior police officer Yamuna Prasad.

Since the bus was crowded, many passengers were sleeping on the road as they were told the bus would only be repaired in the morning, Prasad added.

The injured passengers were admitted to a hospital. Rescue operations are still ongoing, police said, adding that the driver of the truck fled the scene.

More than 110,000 people are killed every year in road accidents across India, according to police. Most crashes are blamed on reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles.

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