A speeding bus veered off a major expressway in central Bangladesh and plunged into a ditch, killing at least 19 people and injuring dozens, police said.

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

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

The driver, who was killed, appeared to have lost control of the vehicle after the tyre of the bus burst, he said, adding that the cause of the accident was under investigation.

Road accidents are common in Bangladesh, often blamed on reckless driving, old vehicles and poor safety rules, and killing thousands each year.

In 2018, a series of massive student protests, sparked by the death of two teenagers, forced Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government to approve raising the maximum prison time to five years from three for causing death by rash driving.

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