At least 30 dead after bus crashes off cliff and into river in South Africa

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

At least 30 people have been killed and the death toll may rise further after a bus thought to be carrying 80 people fell 80 metres (262 feet) down a cliff in South Africa's mountainous KwaZulu-Natal province, coming to rest inverted in a river.

Up to 32 more people have been hospitalised after the bus lost control due to a brake failure. The exact number of passengers, while thought to be 80, is unconfirmed at present as police have been unable to contact the vehicle's owner and the driver was killed in the disaster. The death toll could yet increase as police divers and military helicopters were still conducting search and rescue operations on the river and the wreck. Ambulances from across the Eastern Cape are at the scene.

Four children are amongst the dead. It is unknown how many live passengers, if any, remain trapped in the wreckage of the bus, which crashed near Cedarville. It is also unclear how deeply underwater it is, with reports varying from half-submerged to one and a half metres below the waterline. Video footage from Sky News shows an overturned bus that is accessible to rescuers, suggesting either that the water is shallow or that the vehicle has already been dragged from the river.

South Africa's death toll on roads is statistically among the world's worst, with 10,000 killed every year. It is unclear what caused the brakes to fail.