At least 24 people have been killed after a bus in Peru veered off a mountainous road and plunged down a slope.
The bus had been travelling north from Ayacucho in the south-central part of the country to Huancayo, the capital of the Junin region, when it crashed around 1:30am local time (06:30 GMT) on Monday.
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Local media reported that the bus flipped several times as it tumbled down the rugged mountain terrain in the area of Huancavelica.
Manuel Zevallos Pacheco, the mayor of the Anco district, told the news outlet RPP that the bus fell at least 150 metres (492 feet).
The regional government of Ayacucho reported that it had attended to 11 injured passengers at the Huanta Support Hospital. The newspaper La Republica estimated that as many as 36 people could be wounded.
#LOÚLTIMO Bus interprovincial de ruta Huancayo – Ayacucho de la empresa Molina Unión sufrió despiste y volcadura cayendo al Río Mantaro. Medios locales informan de más de 20 personas fallecidas.
– Video: Rodito Audaz pic.twitter.com/VoTrPajys0
— Roger García (@RogerAderly) September 18, 2023
Peru’s transportation authority, SUTRAN, issued a statement on Monday offering condolences for the dead and pledging to probe what happened.
It added that, according to preliminary investigations, the bus had the proper authorisation to transport passengers: It had its mandatory accident insurance and had passed a vehicle inspection.
“At this time, SUTRAN is continuing its investigations, as established within the framework of its powers,” the agency wrote, underscoring its “commitment to supervising compliance” with federal regulations.
The company that operates the bus route, Molina Union, confirmed the death toll to the Reuters news agency on Monday but declined to offer further details.
Monday’s crash is the latest deadly incident on Peru’s roadways, many of which have been built on the steep terrain of the Andes Mountains.
In January, a bus carrying 60 passengers dove off a cliff in northern Peru, killing at least 24 passengers, according to preliminary reports.
In 2021, a string of crashes occurred within a span of four days, including two involving buses. One plunged into a ravine in the country’s southeast, while another toppled off a cliff some 60km (37 miles) from the capital Lima.
Authorities investigating the latter said “recklessness” and “high speed” were contributing factors. Experts also have questioned whether the bus drivers navigating these winding mountain roads received proper training.
Meanwhile, in an interview with RPP, Mayor Zevallos Pacheco expressed frustration with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, which he accused of not looking into a recent avalanche that took place on the same roadway where Monday’s crash took place.
“Practically as a result of this, we have an accident,” he told RPP.
The news outlet reported that traffic accidents have increased in Peru in recent years, with injuries climbing from 38,447 in 2020 to 53,544 last year. Traffic-related deaths also rose to 3,311 for 2022.