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Death toll rises to 29 in bus plunge

OAXACA, MEXICO (AFP) – At least 29 people were killed in Mexico when a passenger bus careened off a mountain road and plummeted into a ravine on Wednesday in the southern state of Oaxaca, the state prosecutor told AFP.

“The figures we have 12 hours after the rescue work began are 29 people dead and 19 injured,” Bernardo Rodriguez Alamilla said by telephone.

Images from the scene showed the mangled wreckage of the vehicle lying on its side at the bottom of a steep cliff as rescuers worked nearby.

Fifteen women died, two of them while receiving hospital care, as well as 13 men and a child, the prosecutor said.

The first official report set the number of fatalities at 27 and the number of wounded at 17.

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the accident, with early indications suggesting mechanical failure.

At least six of the injured were unconscious and in serious condition when they were rushed to hospital, according to the civil protection agency.

The bus, operated by a local transport company, had left the capital Mexico City on Tuesday night and was heading for the town of Santiago de Yosondua, authorities said.

“The driver of the vehicle presumably lost control… and unfortunately it fell into a ravine more than 25 metres deep,” a state official, Jesus Romero, told a press conference.

The company operating the bus provides a daily service from Mexico City, he said.

Injured passengers were transferred to area hospitals, while emergency services retrieved the bodies of those killed, Romero added.

The accident happened in Magdalena Penasco, a town located in a mountainous area home to remote communities, winding roads and steep ravines.

“We deeply regret the accident that occurred in Magdalena Penasco,” Oaxaca state governor Salomon Jara wrote on social media, offering condolences to the families of the deceased.

“Our government personnel are already working on the rescue operation and to provide all the support to the injured people,” he said.

Police images published on social media showed the top half of the bus almost completely destroyed.

The wreckage of a bus lies on its side after plummeting into a ravine in Oaxaca, Mexico. PHOTO: AFP