- The people were traveling to take part in a Hindu festival
- The dead include a 12-year-old boy, officials say
- Police say it's possible the driver fell asleep
At least 18 people were killed Thursday in southern Nepal when a tractor carrying them to a religious festival overturned into an irrigation canal, police said.
"They could not come out of the canal because the overturned tractor was on top of them," police officer Bidur Khanal said from Sunsari district, the site of the accident, about 400 km southeast of Kathmandu.
The people were traveling in an open trailer being pulled by a tractor, images from the scene show.
The victims include a 12-year-old boy, 16 women and one man, Khanal said.
Another 23 people were injured, he said. They managed to get out of the canal because they were not trapped under the tractor, he explained.
Five of the injured were hospitalized in serious condition, Khanal said.
It's possible the cause of the accident may have been the driver falling asleep, Khanal said, because he had been driving all night.
The pilgrims had left Dhanusha district, about 150 km away from the accident site, and were driving on a road along the canal to get to Baharachetra in Sunsari district, where people were celebrating the final day of a four-day Hindu festival.
Passenger bus accidents in the mountains of Nepal are common because of poor roads, old vehicles, reckless driving and overcrowding, but accidents in southern Nepal, like the one Thursday, are not common.