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Death toll from bus crash stands at 22, say cops

The death toll for the Eastern Cape bus crash stood at 22, including five children, police announced on Wednesday.

The bus — which belongs to a private bus company — careened down a 200m embankment into a river near the town of Cedarville on Tuesday.

During the course of the day, there were conflicting reports of how many people had been killed, ranging from 20 to 30.

On Wednesday, police spokesperson Superintendent Zandra Wiid said 22 bodies were taken to the mortuary and that ”only 22 had been confirmed dead”.

Among the dead was the bus driver.

Earlier police issued a statement saying that 24 people were killed in the accident.

Wiid said 24 others were taken to hospital and it was unclear how many passengers had been aboard the bus at the time of the accident. There were unconfirmed reports that up to 80 people had been in the bus at the time of the accident.

Police said the cause of the accident was unknown but that an expert would be examining the wreck on Wednesday.

Wiid said injured bus passengers had told police the bus driver was experiencing problems with the gears shortly before the accident.

Police said the names of the dead would be released once all families had been notified.

On Wednesday, Eastern Cape minister of health Nomsa Jajula and minister of transport Thobile Mhlahlo flew to Matatiele from Bisho and visited the Taylor Bequest Hospital, where most of the injured were initially admitted following the accident.

The two, under the media spotlight, then visited the accident scene 15km south of Cedarville.

Asked if the department would look at repairing or upgrading the severely rutted road, Mhlahlo said: ”You are right, the road is going to have to be improved. It is our responsibility. As you know, at the moment we are dealing with the question of demarcation. That road, as it stands now, it belongs to KwaZulu-Natal. We are busy with the process of transferring state assets into the provincial government here in the Eastern Cape.

”But I don’t think that is the issue now. We can’t debate the condition of the road. I think we should debate what is it we are going to do as part of our support systems to the families who lost their loved ones.”

Mhlahlo said investigations would reveal how roadworthy the bus was. He was not prepared to point blame at the driver or the bus company until the investigation was completed. — Sapa

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