Bus falls into Nepal river killing nine: police

Local residents watch as a rescue team searches for the bodies of Hindu pilgrims after a bus fell into an irrigation canal near the pilgrimage site of Triveni, Nawalparasi some 100km southwest of Kathmandu, on July 15. At least 39 pilgrims were killed in the accident

A bus swerved off a road in central Nepal before dawn on Monday and plunged into a river, killing nine people, police said -- the latest in a string of deadly accidents on the country's highways.

The incident came less than 24 hours after at least 39 pilgrims were killed when an overcrowded bus taking them from India to a Hindu festival in southern Nepal fell into a canal.

Police said Monday's deaths occurred when the night-bus fell 200 metres (650 feet) down a cliff after the driver was thought to have fallen asleep.

"A passenger bus on its way to Kathmandu from Katari slipped off the road at Krishnabhir and fell into the river," police sub-inspector Narayan Prasad Chalise said.

"We recovered six bodies from the accident site and three seriously injured died in hospital in Kathmandu. Another 17 people are injured and are undergoing treatment."

Accidents are relatively common on Nepal's highways because of poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.