LIMA – At least 36 people were killed and six others injured on Tuesday when a bus went off a highway near the Pacific Ocean in Pasamayo, an area north of Lima, the Peruvian Health Ministry said.
Larry Lynch, deputy chief of Peru’s volunteer firefighters, told EFE that 32 bodies had been recovered, while six injured survivors were transported by helicopter to hospitals in the port city of Callao.
The vehicle made impact on a rocky stretch of coastline “and the tide is already rising,” Lynch said.
He said that 150 firefighters were engaged in the arduous task of extracting bodies from the wreckage and using ropes to hoist them to the highway above.
Working at the scene alongside the firefighters are National Police officers, sailors and Health Ministry personnel.
Emergency services officials told EFE earlier that the bus plunged into a ravine 160 meters (about 525 ft) deep.
“To suffer an accident of this magnitude is very painful for us as a country,” President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said on Twitter, adding that he had deployed “all immediate assistance to rescue the victims.”
The bus, which was carrying 57 passengers, a driver and a female crew member, left the northern city of Huaura early Tuesday for Lima, highway patrol chief Dino Escudero said in comments to Canal N television.
He said the accident happened 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 accident occurred around 11:40 am when the bus was apparently hit by a tractor-trailer, whose driver “has already been arrested at the scene,” Escudero said.
The death toll is expected to rise once rescuers can cut into the vehicle’s body to get at the people inside, emergency services officials said.