A church bus carrying over 60 passengers crashed in South Africa’s Western Cape Friday, killing 24 and injuring dozens more. A crane lift was required to lift the bus and separate victims trapped beneath it at the scene, 80 miles northeast of Cape Town. Reuters reports that 44 passengers were hurt in the accident.
“It appears as if the brakes failed and the driver lost control,” police traffic spokesman Kenny Africa told Reuters. “We are recovering more bodies and the death toll may rise.”
A spokeswoman for the Western Cape’s health department told The Associated Press that 22 females and two males, including two children, died in the crash. The crash took place in the Hex River Valley, which is famous for similar accidents.
South Africa’s motor vehicle fatalities are almost three times higher than those of United States, recording almost 14,000 annually. Though the country hosts Africa’s largest economy, availability and maintenance of automobiles is poor. Drunk driving is a major problem as well, responsible for some 60 percent of fatal crashes.
With no public transit system in place, residents rely on their cars for transportation. South African officials have worked to counteract historically lax traffic enforcement in the past, where drunk drivers were only given minimal fines after causing fatal accidents. The World Health Organization gave South Africa a low 2 out of 10 rating for its enforcement of drunk driving laws.
Though Friday’s bus crash was not linked to alcohol use, government officials focused on the importance of obeying traffic laws. The driver of the bus was reportedly unable to break as he entered a sharp left turn in rainy conditions. Reuters reported that the turn is at the bottom of a steep decline, which leads cars to accelerating dangerously into the turn.
“This is a terrible tragedy. We urge people to be extra cautious when it is raining and to follow all the rules of the road,” Inkatha Freedom Party spokesperson Petros Sithole told Times Live in South Africa.