LA PAZ – Twenty people were killed and a young girl was injured in Bolivia when a truck plunged into a more than 200-meter (655-foot) ravine, local media reported.
The vehicle, which was transporting citrus fruits and coca leaf and was heading toward La Paz with the passengers on top of the cargo, plunged downhill early Thursday in Yungas, a transitional zone between the Andes mountains and the eastern lowlands.
Bolivia, like neighboring Peru, permits legal cultivation of coca in limited quantities for use in cooking, folk medicine and Andean religious rites. In its unadulterated form, coca is a mild stimulant that wards off hunger and combats the effects of high altitude.
According to the first reports from firefighters, the accident apparently occurred because the driver fell asleep.
An estimated 20 people were killed and the only survivor, a nine-year-old girl, was taken to a hospital in La Paz, where she is due to undergo multiple operations.
But authorities say the difficult and dangerous terrain has made rescue efforts difficult and they are not ruling out the possibility that the death toll could rise.
Multiple traffic accidents in recent weeks have alarmed authorities and brought new attention to the poor condition of roads and drivers’ bad habits.
A 22-car pileup on Monday in La Paz left three people dead and five injured. EFE