PENUKONDA, India -- A passenger bus veered off a road and fell into a gorge in southeastern India on Wednesday, and at least 13 of the 16 people killed were college and middle school students, police said.

More than 50 other people were injured in the crash near the town of Penukonda in Andhra Pradesh state, said Police Inspector G.R. Yadav.

The state-run public transport bus was carrying 68 people when the driver lost control of the vehicle, which then plunged into the gorge, he said.

Police and rescue workers climbed into the 12-metre-deep gorge and used ropes to pull out the mangled bus.

At least 13 college and middle school students were among those killed, said Police Superintendent S.V. Rajasekhar Babu. Their bags and books lay scattered at the accident site.

Bodies of the dead have been handed over to their families after autopsies were conducted, he said.

Police said the road was under repair and part of it was dug up, which may have forced the driver to move to the edge. The driver died in the accident.

Penukonda is about 2,000 kilometres south of New Delhi.

India has the world's deadliest roads, with more than 110,000 people killed annually. Most crashes are blamed on reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles.