At least 48 people were killed in Peru when a bus tumbled down a cliff from a narrow stretch of road known as the Devil’s Curve, authorities said.
The bus, carrying 57 people in total, was heading for the capital, Lima, when it was struck by a tractor trailer and plunged down the slope onto a rocky beach, firefighter Claudia Espinoza said.
The blue bus came to rest upside down on a strip of shore next to the Pacific, with passengers’ bodies strewn among the rocks.
Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said: “It’s very sad for us as a country to suffer an accident of this magnitude.”
Rescuers struggled to reach survivors and recover the dead from the hard-to-reach spot in Pasamayo, about 43 miles north of Lima.
No road leads directly to the beach, complicating rescue efforts. Police and firefighters used helicopters to transport six survivors with serious injuries to nearby hospitals.
Colonel Dino Escudero said 48 people were confirmed dead with at least three other people missing.
Transportation minister Bruno Giuffra said initial reports indicated both vehicles involved were travelling at high speed at the time of the crash.
As rescue operations continued late into the night, authorities announced a suspect had been detained for allegedly stealing from the victims.
Traffic accidents are common in Peru, with more than 2,600 people killed in 2016.
More than three dozen people died when three buses and a truck collided in 2015 on the main coastal road.
Twenty people were killed in November when a bus plunged off a bridge into a river in the southern Andes.
The nation’s deadliest traffic crash on record happened in 2013 when a makeshift bus carrying 51 Quechua Indians back from a party in south-eastern Peru fell from a cliff into a river, killing everyone on board.
Many of the passengers in Tuesday’s crash were returning to Lima after celebrating the New Year holiday with family outside the city.
The road is known as the Devil’s Curve because it is narrow, frequently shrouded in mist and winds along a cliff which is a notorious accident blackspot.
Police said the bus fell an estimated 262ft.
Miguel Sidia, a transportation expert in Peru, said that while road conditions in the Andean nation have improved in recent years, lack of driver education and little enforcement of road rules still lead to many fatalities each year.
He called on authorities to immediately conduct studies into building a new road further from the cliff where the accident occurred.
“As a Peruvian, it’s shameful,” he said.