19 Killed in Peru Bus Crash, Authorities Say

LIMA -- The death toll from this week's bus accident in northern Peru is 19, the medical examiner's office said, correcting the figure of 26 fatalities offered by the bus company.

The report, made public by the official news agency Andina, said that among the dead was an 11-year-old girl.

An executive of the Movil Tours company said within hours of Wednesday's crash that 26 people were killed, and confusion about the number of fatalities persisted throughout the following day.

The work of identification went on for 12 hours and was made more difficult because the vehicle was trapped in a ravine some 150 meters (490 feet) deep, to be removed later by police and troops from a nearby army garrison.

Police said that about 50 people -- including the driver and his assistant -- were aboard the bus when it went off the Fernando Belaunde Terry highway on a curve in a mountainous stretch and plunged into the ravine.

The bus was traveling from Chiclayo, the capital of Lambayeque province, to Bagua, a city in the Amazonas region.

Traffic accidents, according to official figures, killed 875 people and left 5,307 others injured last year in Peru.

The Ombudsman's Office says there are "profound weaknesses" in the government's ability to prevent traffic accidents in Peru.

Experts claim the accident rate in Peru's interior is extremely high due to the poor condition of roads, an obsolete bus fleet and drivers who obtain licenses on the "black market" by paying between $30 and $50. EFE