LIMA – The number of confirmed deaths from a bus crash earlier this week along the Pacific Coast stands at 53, the Peru National Police (PNP) said on Thursday.
The accident happened shortly before noon Tuesday on the Pan American Highway North about 45 kilometers (some 28 miles) from Lima in an area overlooking the ocean known as “The Devil’s Curve.”
The bus, possibly after being hit by a tractor-trailer, ran off the road and plunged 160 meters (about 525 ft) to the bottom of a ravine.
Authorities initially reported a death toll of 36, but emergency teams have continued to find additional bodies amid the wreckage.
Two more bodies were detected Thursday, the PNP regional commander, Gen. Victor Rucoba, told Canal N television.
“They are in a place that is very difficult to reach. It’s an incline of nearly 90 degrees,” he said, adding that one of the bodies was nearly covered by sand.
Peruvian television aired images of a police helicopter hovering over the accident scene to aid the search. When a body is spotted, specially trained PNP officers rappel down the cliff to retrieve it.
The bus was officially carrying 75 people and by Wednesday, authorities thought they had accounted for all of them: 51 dead and six injured survivors.
Wednesday night, however, the family of another person who was known to have boarded the bus contacted police to say that their loved one was missing.
That person, a young woman named Indira Diaz, was one of the two people found Thursday.
Officials acknowledge that they have no way to be sure how many people were actually on the vehicle, as it is common for buses on short-haul routes to pick up additional passengers during unscheduled stops.
The Devil’s Curve has been the scene of numerous accidents in recent decades.
Peru’s president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, said Wednesday that he ordered the Transportation Ministry to immediately launch a widening of the treacherous roadway to six lanes to reduce the risk.
The ministry issued a statement Thursday banning buses from travel on the Devil’s Curve.