45 dead in South Africa as bus falls into ravine

A tragic incident in South Africa has left an eight-year-old child as the sole survivor after a bus carrying 46 people plunged 50 meters from a bridge into a ravine and burst into flames. The child, whose identity remains undisclosed, sustained serious injuries and was rushed to the hospital, as confirmed by the transport ministry in a statement issued late on Thursday.

The passengers onboard the bus were pilgrims en route from Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, to attend an Easter service at the St Engenas Zionist Christian Church in Moria, located in the northern region of South Africa. According to government reports, the driver allegedly lost control of the vehicle, colliding with barriers on the bridge, which resulted in the bus careening over the edge and crashing onto the ground below, where it ignited.

Rescue efforts faced harrowing challenges as some bodies were severely burned, making identification difficult, while others were trapped amidst the debris or scattered across the crash site. The incident occurred in the northeastern part of the country, approximately 190 miles (300km) north of Johannesburg, with emergency operations extending late into the night.

The bus, towing a trailer according to reports from SABC, plummeted off the Mmamatlakala bridge that connects two hillsides between Mokopane and Marken in the Limpopo province, falling 50 meters onto rocky terrain below.

The St Engenas Zionist Christian Church, headquartered in Moria, hosts an annual Easter pilgrimage that draws hundreds of thousands of attendees from South Africa and neighboring nations. This year marked the return of the Easter pilgrimage to Moria after a hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the bus bore a Botswana license plate, authorities are still confirming the nationalities of the passengers. Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, who was already in the vicinity for a road safety campaign, visited the crash site and assured that the South African government would assist in repatriating the deceased and conducting a thorough investigation into the accident’s cause.

Chikunga expressed heartfelt condolences to the affected families, emphasizing the need for responsible driving, especially during the heightened travel activity of the Easter weekend.

Despite South Africa’s well-developed road infrastructure, it grapples with a dismal road safety record. President Cyril Ramaphosa extended condolences to Botswana and pledged support, urging citizens to prioritize safety during the Easter holiday period, emphasizing the collective responsibility to prevent road tragedies.

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