A speeding bus veered off the road and plunged into a ditch in Bangladesh, leaving 19 people dead and dozens wounded, police said.

Police suspect that the front left wheel of the Emad Paribahan bus leaving Madaripur’s Shibchar area on Sunday morning had burst, leading to the accident.

However, they suspect that the accident may also have happened because the driver was either speeding or dozing off at the wheels, according to the Daily Star newspaper.

“We think either the tyre burst, the driver was speeding, or his drowsiness is the reason behind the accident,” Madaripur superintendent of police (SP) Md Masud Alam told The Daily Star.

The bus, carrying more than 40 passengers, fell about 9m (30 feet) into a roadside ditch after breaking through the railing of the newly-built Padma river bridge expressway, Mr Hossain said.

The driver was also killed in the accident. The death toll could rise further as some of the injured passengers are in critical condition, said Anowar Hossain, police official of Shibchar, where the crash occurred. The city is 80 km away from the capital Dhaka.

Madaripur district administration has formed a four-member committee to look into the accident, the newspaper reported, adding that the bus had been operating without any fitness clearance for three months.

(Additional reporting by agencies)

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