Seventeen people have been killed and eight more injured after a double-decker bus caught fire at an illegal transport terminal in the Peruvian capital Lima, a spokesman for the country’s firefighters said.
Witnesses said the fire on Sunday started in the bus’s motor at the rear of the vehicle and quickly spread to its interior, spokesman Lewis Mejia told reporters, adding that the cause of the first was under investigation.
Lima’s Mayor Jorge Munoz said the bus burst into flames at the Fiori bus terminal that authorities had banned just weeks ago because it was located next to an illegal shop that sells fuel.
“It appears that on the second floor of [the] bus, where most of the victims were found, they were transporting fuel. That’s a very serious matter,” Munoz told journalists in broadcast comments before visiting survivors at a local hospital.
Onlookers described scenes of panic and cries of terror as the blaze ripped through the bus. Much of the vehicle was reduced to a skeleton and the corpses of some victims could still be seen in the seats.
Others asphyxiated on the stairway connecting the upper and lower levels.
Four children were among the dead, but authorities have not said how many people were on board.
Eight units of firefighters were deployed to put out the fire on the bus, which had been headed to the coastal city of Chiclayo in Peru‘s north, according to local broadcaster RPP.
TV images showed the scorched remains of the vehicle surrounded by crowds of people in the district of San Martin de Porres, on the outskirts of Lima.
One unidentified man told local television that he had lost six family members in the fire, including his wife, children and grandchildren.
Authorities in Lima have repeatedly failed to reign in the city’s so-called “informal” transport system, a chaotic network of independent and unauthorised vans and buses used by millions of people every day.
Firefighters found the bus had no fire extinguishers and safety equipment, RPP reported.
Munoz has vowed to punish the owners.
“They have defied a municipal order … I’m completely outraged,” Munoz said. “These people must be removed and criminal sanctions will be sought.”