CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ A speeding bus blew a tire, overturned and caught fire Saturday, killing 36 people and injuring 17 seriously, police said.

Twenty-five children were among the dead.

The accident occurred shortly before 1 a.m. near La Victoria, a town 30 miles west of the capital of Caracas.

Jose Arias Palma, the police commissioner of caracas, said bus driver Rafael Eduardo Perez suffered only minor injuries and will be charged with reckless driving and manslaughter.

''He was driving way beyond the speed limit... That's why he lost control of the bus and that's why the accident is so serious,'' Arias Palma told The Associated Press.

The bus, en route from Caracas to the western town of Barquisimeto with 55 passengers, hit a highway barrier and overturned after a front tire exploded, Arias Palma said.

''The bodies are burned beyond recognition,'' police officer Antonio Bernal told Venezuean television. ''Apparently the bus was carrying gasoline in one of the luggage compartments, which added to the fire and the tragedy.''

It was the worst highway accident in Venezuela in recent years. In 1984, a bus fell into a steep ravine and 14 members of a firefighters' musical group were killed.