Bus crash and fuel tank explosion in Colombia kill 27

AP , BOGOTA

Sat, Apr 07, 2007 - Page 7

A bus carrying people and cargo crashed in northern Colombia, igniting a blaze that killed 27 people, including six children, on the first day of the Easter holidays, police said.

A rear tire blew out on the bus as it traveled on Thursday to the Caribbean tourist port of Santa Marta from Dibulla, a town 600km north of the capital Bogota. The vehicle flipped over and the fuel tank exploded, enveloping the bus in flames, police General Guillermo Aranda told Caracol radio.

"You could see the people inside. They were still alive as they were burning up," said Julian Castro, a tourist who witnessed the aftermath of the accident.

Augustin Salas, one of those who survived the inferno, told Caracol radio that he was in the front row of the bus when it crashed.

"Luckily, I was saved because I was thrown out" of the vehicle, Salas said.

The grandfather was able to pull his grandchild by his feet from the fiery wreck, but he didn't know what happened to his daughter.

Aranda said the crash killed 21 adults and six children. The bus had been modified to carry up to 45 passengers as well as cargo. He did not say how many people were aboard the bus.

Many Colombians started their vacations on Thursday, a public holiday, in time for Easter celebrations in this mainly Roman Catholic country. Many head to places like Santa Marta, which is known for its beaches.

Road accidents are a serious problem in Colombia, where overloaded buses and cars try to navigate winding roads and mountainous highways that sometimes run alongside sharp precipices.