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38 Die in Georgia Bus Accident

January 9, 1999

KAZBEGI, Georgia (AP) _ Emergency workers rappelled into a ravine on Saturday to recover the bodies of 38 people killed when their bus veered off a road and plunged into a river in the mountains of northeastern Georgia.

The bus tumbled more than 820 feet Friday night when it went off a winding road near the village of Kazbegi. It had been transporting mourners from a funeral in the town of Kobi, Georgia, to their homes in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, a region of neighboring Russia.

There were no survivors.

``This is one of the most horrific accidents to have occurred in recent years. Russians are responding to it with pain,″ Russian President Boris Yeltsin wrote in a telegram of condolence to North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov.

Rescuers led by Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu used ropes to clamber down the sheer face of the ravine overnight and haul the bodies up with pulleys.

Georgi Rugava, press secretary for the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs, said the cause of the crash was unclear.

Russian Border Service officials said the most likely cause was mechanical failure or ice on the road, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

The agency reported that another factor may have been overloading of the bus, which was designed to carry just 26 people.

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