Nepal crash kills dozens on pilgrim bus

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Media captionThe bus was taking pilgrims to the Hindu pilgrimage site of Triveni

At least 39 pilgrims have been killed in a bus crash in Nepal, officials say.

The crowded bus swerved off a road and plunged into an irrigation canal near the town of Parasi, 150km (93 miles) south-west of Kathmandu.

The bus was taking the pilgrims - mostly from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh - to the Hindu pilgrimage site of Triveni, close to the Indian border.

Buses are often overcrowded in Nepal and accidents on poorly maintained mountain roads are common.

Police official Gyan Bikram Shah told the Associated Press that the driver had lost control on roads that were slippery because of rainfall.

He said the bus was so crowded that people were riding on the roof.

Local government official Bir Bahadur Rai told the BBC that he was trying to verify accounts from survivors that more than 100 people had been travelling on the bus.

The BBC's Surendra Phuyal says only two bodies of Nepali nationals have been identified so far.

Indian officials have now arrived at the scene and are expected to help identify the other victims, our correspondent adds.

Police official Deepak Raya said the bus became fully submerged after veering off the road.

He said the pilgrim were to attend an annual religious festival at Triveni on Monday morning.

Officials said water levels in the canal were high as a result of monsoon rains. Rescuers have drained water from it to search for survivors, police officer Ram Dutta Joshi told the Reuters news agency.

Last October, at least 41 people were killed when a bus swerved off a mountain road and plummeted 400m (1,300ft) into a river in eastern Nepal.