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Philippines Bus Accident Kills 33

November 24, 2002

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A bus lost control and plunged into a ravine in a province southeast of Manila early Sunday while most of its passengers were asleep, killing at least 33, police said.

Army and police troops pulled the dead, including the driver, and six injured passengers from the wreckage in a night rescue in the remote mountainous town of Tagkawayan in Quezon province, said police superintendent Efren Castro.

The driver apparently lost control of the steering wheel, Castro said, citing initial statements from survivors.

``There was apparently something wrong with the steering wheel and the bus suddenly hurtled downward. Many were sleeping,″ Castro told The Associated Press by telephone.

One of the passengers told police investigators that he saw the driver struggle with the gear stick, then apply the breaks, which apparently failed because the bus instead gathered speed.

``Suddenly, the bus plunged to the right,″ said Efren Fuentes, a 42-year-old soldier, in a police statement. ``I was pinned by cargo boxes and baggages. I could hear shouting and yells for help ... Within minutes, I saw many dead passengers sprawled around.″

Efren Garcia, deputy chief of police of the mountainous town, said the bus was negotiating a sharp curve on a downhill road when it lost control and smashed onto an iron railing and fell into the 30 foot ravine.

The impact ripped off the engine at the back of the bus and slid it to the front, pinning to death passengers, including the driver, Garcia told the AP.

At least 23 of the dead passengers have already been identified through identification documents found in their belongings, but a hastily-convened provincial crisis committee would double-check with relatives, Garcia said.

The bus was traveling from Manila to the Bicol region, a mountainous area in the southeast corner of the main northern Philippine island of Luzon.

Public transportation in Philippine rural areas is prone to accidents because of old, poorly maintained jeeps and buses and dangerously narrow roads often lacking safety signs and guardrails.

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