The air conditioned multi-axle Volvo bus with 51 passengers on board had left Bangalore last night and met with the tragedy around 2.30 AM near Kunimeli bridge. Most of the bus passengers escaped by jumping out through the emergency exit, police said.
The driver at the wheel escaped and was reported absconding while his assistant is one of the victims, which also included a toddler, Haveri district Superintendent of Police Shashi Kumar said.
All the bodies were charred beyond recognition and might require DNA test for identification, police said.
A Pune-bound passenger broke open the emergency window which helped several people escape the burning bus and save their lives.
A passenger travelling in the bus said the mishap occurred when the vehicle hit the median and caught fire due to leak in the diesel tank before it was engulfed in flames within minutes.
Police said the seriously injured, including the cleaner, were being treated at a hospital in Hubli and those with minor injuries underwent treatment at Haveri district hospital.
Twenty eight passengers were from Mumbai and they headed back home in Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation bus, officials said.
Today's mishap comes days after the bus tragedy in Andhra Pradesh's Mahabubnagar about a fortnight ago when 45 people perished after the Volvo bus from Bangalore to Hyderabad hit the median on the national highway and caught fire.